I’m a sucker for steampunk. There’s something inherently fascinating about Victorian glamor, and how it gels so well with clockwork contrivances, wind-up killer robots, flintlock pistols affixed with laser scopes, and welding goggles as fashion accessories. Which, of course, accounts for why, even before my copy of Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika shipped, she’d already got her hooks in me.
I first discovered this gem of steampunk coolness in the pages of Previews magazine two months earlier, during one of my routine visits to the comic store. Of course, the first print of this new Aspen title had already sold out by then, and I had to wait for the second print, which hit shelves only a couple days ago.
Set in 19th Century England, Lady Mechanika is a tale about its namesake character. The big M is a lass whose traumatic past has left her bereft of her memories and her limbs, and armed with a whole lot of new hardware (it’s a pun, get it? XD).
Like other good, old fashioned Victorian protagonists, she works as a private eye, tackling crimes and mysteries run-of-the-mill bobbies shy away from. Very Holmes-y, really. She’s aided by Littleton, her Watson, and you can imagine there’s a Moriarty’s lurking in the shadows, up to something nasty.
As it turns out, her adventure begins with a thread to her past – another girl with mechanical grafts turns up in the city, dead.
Character hook’s in your face, and the plot’s just as straightforward. Villains are (presumably) introduced nice and early, and you instantly get the feel that there’s something rotten going on (as if shady, masked characters toting guns and running a poor girl down aren’t obvious enough).
The story picks up from there, and leaves off with a sort of a mini cliff-hanger (also involving shady figures), but no real surprises there.
Whenever I read Benitez’s work, I get the feeling that he’s better at character and world creation than at storytelling, and I get this same vibe from Lady Mechanika.
Still, while he might not be a genius storyteller, he’s an incredibly talented artist. The penciling and inking is top notch and reminiscent of his work on The Darkness and Magdelena. The characters, especially, are gorgeous, and the costumes really evince a strong, Steampunk feel.
Colors are vibrant, the use of splashes, like reds and blacks, deliberate, and the backgrounds are generally impressive. The paneling is clean as well, which contributes much to the overall readability of the comic and its visual appeal.
I’m definitely looking forward to more Lady Mechanika in the weeks to come, that’s for sure. You can bet your pocketwatch on it. XD