Monday, July 11, 2011

Out This Week: Lady Mechanika #2

One of the stand-out titles from this weeks new comic book releases is the next installment of Aspen Comics Lady Mechanika ongoing series. No doubt recognising that following a long - we're assured unavoidable - delay between issues much of the momentum around the initial release will have been lost, Aspen are also this week publishing the Lady Mechanika Collected Edition which contains the sold out zero and first issues of the title in an oversized value-priced collection.

Our friend and regular contributor to Escape from Tomorrow Simon Breeze tells us more about the fantastic, steampunk world of Lady Mechanika ...

Towards the end of last year I stumbled across some amazing art posted by Joe Benitez on his DeviantArt page featuring a steampunk girl called Lady Mechanika. This got me intrigued, and with a little poking about on line and chatting to a comic mad friend I discovered that she was the lead character in a new comic of the same title.

Not knowing much about the comic, other than the story was set in a steampunk world, I took a punt and added it to my monthly pull list. The art alone was enough to convince me at this point and the only nagging doubt I held was the steampunk element, not that I'm not a fan of steampunk, however I have been witness to some terrible writing crimes under the guise of steampunk before.

If I had any concerns they were washed away with just a cursory glance at issue #0, and once I had read the issue, I was hooked. This was further re-enforced when issue #1 arrived on my doorstep with my monthly delivery of comics.

Again, as with issue #0, a quick glance at the pages blew my socks off! Let alone a read of the book.

One of the things that really stands out for me is the world of lady Mechanika. With steampunk it seems that sometimes if you just stick some cogs and goggles on everyone and put them in a Victorian setting then it is steampunk. I need more than that from my steampunk. I need it to have a practical application, not just there because it looks good, and with the world of Lady Mechanika everything and everyone seems to have a purpose from the outset, which in my book of steampunk is perfect!

The hard effort that Joe Benitez has put into creating this marvellous world of the steam-age for his characters to live in and tell his stories from has worked out brilliantly. Upon reading, fan of steampunk or not, you will be instantly drawn into the characters, their situations and the settings with ease. The world and characters are so fully realised that there is no 'jarring' upon reading, and by this I mean that you never find yourself thinking 'What is all that about?' or 'What does that do?' I recently compared the world of Lady Mechanika to that of the original world of Star Wars trilogy in that everything looks like it is where it should be.

Issue #0 introduces you to all of the above and to some of the characters that will appear in the ongoing series. The Demon of Satan's Alley, as the #0 issue is titled, is a stand alone story and as such is not a necessary read for those interested in the ongoing issues however, I would highly recommend reading it. It is a fantastic story, a clever introduction and a stand out example of how a zero issue should be. Not only all that, but it will also enhance your understanding and enjoyment of the first issue too.

The Demon of Satan's Alley follows lady Mechanika on a hunt for a supposed demon terrorising Satan's Alley. Very early on in the story we discover that Lady Mechanika is not alone on this hunt and that there are several other interested parties patrolling the alley too. The other groups of 'hunters' all have their own agendas and methods and so it is not too long before things kick off with a bang!

The chase propels the story along very quickly to a confrontational and bloody conclusion where we get a glimpse at the true character of Lady Mechanika and find that there is a lot more going on beneath that leather-trussed surface than you would first presume. If I have read and understood the story as well as I believe I have there are several character moments from the supporting cast blended in amongst the rest of the story that are already echoing into issue #1. Again, due to the fanatic story telling of the comic, you will not have had to have read issue #0 to read issue #1.

Issue #1, with the eerie title of Chapter One, The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse, picks up the story a short nondescript time after The Demon of Satan's Alley. The story starts with the disturbing discovery of a mechanical enhanced corpse in the heart of Mechanika City. Appearing obsessed with such discoveries in order to unravel the mystery that is her own life, Lady Mechanika decides to investigate.

As the investigation progresses we are introduced to several very interesting characters who will no doubt impact on future stories, and to the larger, breath taking steampunked world of Lady Mechanika. The story clips along at a fast pace, yet at no time do you feel like anything is being missed or over-looked giving the comic an edge-of-the-seat feel to it as you go. At times it can feel like you are on an emotional roller-coaster (in a good way), excited one moment, laughing the next and curious as hell in another breath. There is even one scene that I challenge you not to get a little choked up on it is so touching. Issue #1 comes to a fantastic ending where you feel like you have found out so much about these fantastic characters and their world, but there is so much more to learn.

The storytelling for both issues is brilliant and the art is fantastic, the comic almost feels cinematic in places and I wouldn't be surprised if someone out there in movie land is already considering Lady Mechanika for a future production. I highly recommend this comic and I can't gush about it enough to anyone that will listen, and sometimes those that don't too. I already pick this comic up as part of my pull list and plan to also buy the traded addition when it is published in the future. From just these two issues I can tell that Lady Mechanika does not only read well as a comic, but will read fantastically as a collected edition.

Each book comes packed not only with the main story, but the back of the book is packed with art, sketches, notes and a section called The Steampunkitchen by Stephanie Hanson where we can discover how to make some yummy steampunk treats such as cakes and tarts! I know it sounds a bit bonkers, however it is an inspired section that as a fan of cooking I really enjoy, and doesn't seem out of place within the comic. If this was a Spider-Man or Batman comic and there was a similar section you would find yourself asking why? Clearly not the case with Lady Mechanika, and genuinely I would miss it if it wasn't there one day when I flicked to the back of the book.

I guess by now you know where this is going. I give Lady Mechanika a steam-powered 5 out of 5. There are two new comic titles I have started reading recently that have really stood out and always move to the top of the reading pile when they arrive, and Lady Mechanika is one of those.

Lady Mechanika
Written & Drawn by Joe Benitez, colours by Peter Steigerwald, letters by Josh Reed
Published by Aspen Comics

Like Simon I thoroughly enjoyed these first issues of Lady Mechanika and am really looking forward to following the story. Don't forget you can read more from Simon over at his blog as well as follow his weekly webcomic JessieKane.