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Heidi, Geek Girl Detective is a fledgling (as of December 2005) webcomic found at http://www.planetheidi.com/. It tells the story of the eponymous Heidi, the network specialist working at the Puget Regional Bank. The plot unfolds when she notices some suspicious emails bouncing back from Russia, that hotbed of industrial intrigue even well into these post-Cold War years, coupled with the mysterious disappearance of the sender, whom we also know to have recently lost her husband.

This webcomic was originally intended to be a paperback murder mystery, and it shows, from the narrative style with a Sam Spade-like voiceover of the events by Heidi herself, right down to the synopsis in the webpage found at http://www.planetheidi.com/teaser_noflash.html, which hints at events that have not yet transpired in the story presented so far. The drawing style isn't spectacular, with mostly flat colouring (no shading) and occasional irregular contours, but it's functional and gets the story moving along. There are no text balloons, and conversations are rather written wherever it's convenient to place them within the frames, almost as if we were watching a film in a foreign language and were forced to read the subtitles in order to understand the dialogue.

As of December 2005, there are only two chapters online, of which only the first is completed and functions mostly as a vehicle for characterising Heidi and her work environment. We soon learn that she's a capable computer technician currently in charge of the bank network with little patience for males and Dilbertesque pointy haired managers around her who expect less professional performance from her because of her sex. The second chapter begins to develop the bizarre and strange occurrences proper to the mystery novel and also interjects a flashback that serves again as a vehicle for characterising Heidi's reclusive attitude towards her fellow human beings (a geek trademark characteristic) and explains her motivation for not ignoring suspicious events, citing the tragic consequences that occur when "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [sic] to do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

There's still not much of a story by which to judge Heidi, Geek Girl Detective, but a few things can be already be foreseen. A strong aspect of this novel will be the feminist themes endorsed by the male geek author, who apparently prefers to remain anonymous and only refers to himself as "the author". It is always perilous when males write about feminist themes such as the girl geek heroine, since being relative outsiders and not having felt sexist oppression in the flesh, they risk giving a caricature of what an intellectual female character like Heidi should be like. It is therefore fortunate that this author consulted with his female geek friends for writing this story and characterising its protagonist, information which he seems to have drawn from not only for Heidi, but also for presenting a case of domestic abuse that Heidi had to witness. It seems reasonable to expect that given the title of the story, more feminist themes will crop up as the story progresses.

Heidi, Geek Girl Detective, is clearly all around a mystery novel but told as a webcomic. It's difficult to write a story for that genre that doesn't fall into cliché, given the vast volume of pulp mystery stories written, but it can be accomplished successfully to form a very engrossing tale if it is all clothed in an alluring environment and themes beyond those strictly necessary to the plot are developed fully, as in the case of the medieval religious atmosphere and ensuing debates between the characters in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. The industrial/technical atmosphere and feminist issues in this webcomic promise to be catch the attention of a geeky audience such as Everything2, and so Heidi, Geek Girl Detective may be a webcomic that the casual geek reader may wish to add to the list of webcomics visited weekly, for it has the potential to be an engaging reading.

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