Within the shadows of Mechanika, the war for the future is about to begin. Is Lady Mechainka truly the Champion that justice needs, or will her dark past consume her whole?
Credits & Solicit Info:
Creator, Writer and Drawer: Joe Benitez
Colors: Peter Steigerwald
Letters: Josh Reed
(Covers by Joe Benitez, Peter Steigerwald and J. Scott Campbell)
In the not-so-distant Past, a new legend is being forged. Can Lady Mechanika become the Steampunk Icon that the Genre has been craving for?
If there is any section of "Geek Culture" that would be a top contender for the most misunderstood (not hated, but simply misunderstood), the Steampunk Genre would most definitely be one of the recipients of this distinction. For a significant chunk of people, Steampunk is a fairly recent fashion trend that (depending on who you talk to) spun off either EGL or Cyberpunk and combines Victorian Era Clothing with enhanced Steam Based Technology, that's great to look at, but is even more cost prohibitive than any nitche fashion style can ever hope to be. It isn't until one does research that they realize that Steampunk has played more a role in influencing pop-culture than its getting credit for. Being the subject of books, movies, roleplaying games and Television Shows, the only thing Steampunk is missing is an easily accessible Icon that would make the genre as part of the lexicon as its big brother in Science Fiction, a gap that Joe Benitez's" Lady Mechanika" hopes to fill. Can Issue #1 follow up on the amazing start that Issue #0 ended up being? Let's find the answer out together.
Hitting the ground running, Lady Mechanika #1 gets to the business of expanding the universe that was introduced in the last chapter. With that goal in mind, this chapter uses a similar motif as The Blackpool Armaments Company pursues another creature (who happens to be a half human/half mechanical girl this time) that its Lord and Master feels is the key to the future that he envisions. While going down this road may give Issue #0 readers a feeling of "deja-vu", it helps to bring first time readers up to speed who weren't fortunate enough to read the last chapter when it first hit the shelves. That being said, readers of Issue #0 will have a greater appreciation of the story being told, as they'll be more in turn with what goes on beyond the surface.
Not content to stay in the alleyways of "Steampunk Town, England", Lady Mechanika #1 expands the geographical playing field by starting the story off in Darqueshire Woods, which ends up leads into Mechanika (the name of the city where the last chapter) itself. Along with giving us our first taste of the settings main city, the expansion allows us to explore new characters from the mysteriously deadly (Commander Winter) to the endearingly precious (Allie). The latter character is used masterfully as her obvious admiration of the main character allows her to convince herself that she's not standing in the presence of Lady Mechanika herself, allowing us to see that she's extremely adept at being inconspicuous. To complete the package, we are also introduced to two locations of note in 314 Faraday Street (along with the person who seems to be her closest associate in Lewis) and "The Ministry of Health". Both are very important to Mechanika as the former is established as her home and the Latter is where she spent a memorable part of her life. Benitez makes sure that all of these elements do their fair share in helping to tell the story, as the reader is almost certain to be left wanting more stories involving these characters and locations.
With the extra space allotted for this story, the main thing the writer is allowed to do is to slow the pace down just enough so that the reader is allowed more time to take in everything that happens with the story. By doing this, we are allowed to get a better understanding of Lady Mechanika and why the things she's does are the upmost importance to her, even if they hurt her in the process. While the new reader is introduced to a game that looks to have sizeable stakes, the readers of the last chapter are rewarded with the perception that those stakes are higher, adding a deeper level of nuance to the story in question. No matter which category you fall into, the brisk pace, refreshing characters and excellent dialogue make this story quite the enjoyable read.
After putting down Lady Mechanika #0, the one thing that I feared most of all, was the possibility that the proceeding chapters would fail to live up to the standards that were set for this book. Thankfully the art team was able to prove to me that those fears were grossly unfounded. For starters, Joe Benitez's isn't just content to draw amazing visuals as every piece of art serves a higher purpose that helps to draw the reader into the overall story being presented. Lady Mechanika herself is an excellent example of this, as great care is taken into making sure that she is drawn as the fiercely confident, determined and all around strong woman that the dialogue gives the impression of her being. Even the sexier shots have a purpose beyond showing how sexy she can actually be, enhancing the character and the work at large.
As far as the rest of the package goes, Peter Steigerwald deserves just as much, if not more credit than Joe Benitez. With more environments to color, Steigerwald's coloring talents are truly on display, as each of his coloring choices does their part in helping to tell the stories themselves. The beautiful and bright skyline of Mechanika is a perfect contrast to the darker world that resides within that skyline. Such a contrast helps to show the good and bad sides of the Technological Revolution that will be at the forefront in future stories. With strong lettering doing its job to enhance the proceedings, it is safe to say that the creative team not only met Issue #0's bar, but ended up raising the bar, as well.
My Final 22 Cents:
Like the previous chapter, it's very hard to pick out a flaw, but if I had to, it would have to be at the beginning where the narration boxes end up not fitting the character being presented. While previous readers will realize what's going on by the first page turn, newer readers may end up being confused until they're able to put 2 and 2 together. Of course, this isn't something that'll ruin the comic at large, but it does stand out enough to make someone misunderstand what's going on in the story.
Even with that small glitch, Lady Mechanika #1 is an admirable start to the official series. It's engaging story, witty dialogue, amazing art and overall portrayal of the setting is bound to make Steampunk fans extremely happy, and make the curious non-fan of said setting want more. Of course, with this only being the 2nd chapter, I'm not going to declare this the next great work in this medium as there is still a long way to go before we can make an honest judgement. That being said, the foundation that they're building here is probably the strongest I've seen since American Vampire. If Issue #1 is any indication, this book will be quite a site to see when that foundation is fully laid.
Story ****: Solid Premise + Deft Dialogue +Brisk Pace X Excellent Characterization = Another Solid effort on the writing chores.
Art *****: If Issue #0 showed that these guys have game, then this Issue shows that they are for real. Excellent Character drawings and Jaw Dropping Visuals are only the beginning to this love letter to drawn art.
Accessibility ****3/4: Except for potential confusion at the beginning of the book, Lady Mechanika #1 is extremely easy to pick up and get strapped in for the ride.
Final Judgment: **** (Excellent)
(Note: I know this review was supposed to be up Thursday, but getting ready for my Mom's 60th Birthday took more time than I thought it would. I deeply apoligize for breaking schedule and the final review will be up no later than Sunday Afternoon.
Review by: Linwood Earl Knight