John Allison's latest webcomic Bad Machinery revolves around two rival groups of friends who solve supernatural mysteries. But amidst the soccer curses, toddler-eating beasts, and magic pencils, they have to survive grammar school.
Bad Machinery is a follow-up to Allison's earlier webcomics Scary Go Round and Bobbins. Like Allison's earlier comics, Bad Machinery takes place in the fictional town of Tackleford, England, but it centers on a much younger cast of characters: the pre-teen students of Griswalds Grammar School.
Unusual things are always happening in Tackleford, and Bad Machinery is no exception. Just as the school year starts, a bizarre series of misfortunes plague the local football club. When a satellite actually crashes on the field during play, Linton Baxter becomes convinced that the club is under some kind of curse, and assembles his mystery-solving team – his best friends Jack Finch and Sonny Craven – to figure it out.
Meanwhile, the girls in the class – sharp Shauna Wickle and loud-mouthed Charlotte Grote – are investigating the club's plans to oust an elderly woman from her home. Soon enough, their efforts collide, but not quite in the way anybody expected.
The boy and girl detectives tend to find themselves involved in the same cases, each group illuminating half of a larger picture. But even if they don't interact much on matters of Russian spirits and mystical cryptids, they still have to go to school together. Our amateur sleuths have to deal with bullies, crushes, embarrassing family members, and recognizing their teachers as actual human beings. It's a town where the quest to reclaim a stolen coat from the local mean girl can be just as epic as luring out the Tackleford Beast, where first dates are more intimidating than mystical face-offs. Allison's true strength lies in the interactions between his characters and their endlessly amusing dialogue.
The occasional science-defying robot is just a bonus.