In Review: Lady Mechanika: The Clockwork Assassin #2

Mystery, technology, and the nineteenth century collide into a cornucopia of wonders. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: Five to find for this second issue of this outstanding series.  The A cover (Direct Edition) is by Joe Benitez & Beth Sotelo and it’s fantastic! Leaning out of her monocylce, Mechanika places a pistol into the reader’s face. Fantastic perspective full of incredible details and colored to perfection. The B (Direct Edition) is by Benitez & Peter Steigerwald showcasing the title character in a much more ornate and shielded monocycle, shown from the other side as compared to cover A. She’s sporting an elaborate headdress and has a monstrous rifle-like object in her right hand. Smoke sweeps around in a circular pattern, revealing she’s just come to a stop. She looks angry and awesome. Again, the details are staggering and the colors are breathtaking — Steigerwald is one of my favorite colorists and he’s also an outstanding artist. Benitez provides the pencils on the C (Retailer Incentive Edition) cover, as that’s all this is, pencils. This has the title in blue, while the pencils are only displayed on this original version of the B cover. If one is interested to see what the art looks like before an inker or colorist gets to a piece, this is for you. I love this! A welcome and surprising subject is on the cover of the D (JoeBenitez.com Edition) by Benitez & Mike Garcia — Archibald Lewis. He’s sporting the Steampunk top hat with goggles wrapped around it that characters often wear and is sporting some type of weapon that requires a glowing orange backpack for power. He’s standing before one of the circular constructions that Benitez employs and looks intense. His face says he’s in a hurry and is not going to favor any fools. Excellent! The final cover is the E (Long Beach Comic Con Edition) by Benitez & Sabine Rich and thankfully Benitez prints all of the covers inside all of Mechanika’s books, because I couldn’t find a version of this online. Mechanika has her hands on her hips in a haughty fashion, striking a seductive pose and sporting a feathered headdress. I don’t know where she’s going, but I want to be there! Beautiful. Overall grades: All A+

The story: Inspector Singh has come to Lady Mechanika’s house late at night to question her about the recent murder of Mr. Johnson. A neighbor witnessed the killing observing the female killer had “blades shoot out of her arms and walked with what he considered a ‘mechanical affectation.'” As they sip tea, Mechanika reveals she has no alibi for last night, nor does she have one for when Mr. O’Meara was killed earlier that week. Her being at the O’Meara’s funeral makes her suspect to both men’s murders. Singh goes on to state he could see murdering those that she believes to be guilty of crimes, and he does not blame her for doing so. In fact, the inspector reveals some personal tragedy that drives his character. Mechanika volunteers to question Lewis and to tell anything she learns to Singh, who asks, “Even if it implicates him?” “You can trust me,” she answers. Waking the man on her sofa in another room, Lewis is more than willing to tell her everything upon learning that Johnson is dead. He provides some necessary backstory to how he and the now-dead others were involved with something for a employer. With this employer implicated, the pair decide to do some eavesdropping. Joe Benitez and M.M. Chen make this a thoroughly engaging and tense story with Lewis’s tale creating some sinister overtones and Mechanika’s mission being thrilling. What the pair do learn is curious and leads them to another individual and it is here that the highest point of action occurs and a reveal that changes much about Mechanika’s world. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to keep up with the story. This was outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The art: Lush, lavish, and detailed are words that fail to describe the epic visuals created by Joe Benitez and Martin Montiel’s pencils with digital inks by Studio J-13. Every page, every panel has an incredible look that is the envy of the comic book industry. Steampunk is a genre that demands an incredible amount of minutiae to make the world realized, and this trio of artists goes far beyond reality to create a sumptuous environment that is beautiful, futuristic, and set at the turn of the century. It’s the Blade Runner of Steampunk, without question. The first page is a full-paged splash of Mechanika sipping tea while sitting on a cushioned chair. She is surrounded by details of a well kept home, full bookcase, paintings, fireplace, etc. This could be out of the Victorian era, were it not for her hands and feet protruding from her robe. She is also an incredibly striking woman whose hair curls are fantastic. Even the steam rising from her cup is gorgeous. To remind the reader of this universe’s technology, the panel is surrounded by an ornate metal frame composed of bolts and gears that’s a masterpiece unto itself. And this is only Page 1! As Singh questions her, look at how the focus is placed on his eyes as he receives information and makes decisions. His reactions show him to be a calm man who does not make decisions hastily. The conversation between him and Mechanika is a visual cat-and-mouse that’s delicious. Though only one page, the flashback of Lewis’s tale contains some amazing visuals, and ending with a heavy emotion. When the book comes to the mission for Mechanika it’s amazing in the way action is conveyed and the settings, which are astonishingly full of items that make this world real. When the heroes decide to go to a new location, the final panel on 17 has them striking a quintessential heroic pose. A turn of events creates another scene of action leading to a brief chase that is absolutely wonderful. It’s neat to see the artists use oddly shaped and skewed panels to increase the intensity of this climatic action sequence. This book is a visual triumph. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Steampunk books often are colored too darkly, to reinforce the results of sinister technology being used. Doing so often obliterates the visuals, leaving the reader wondering what he or she is looking at. Beth Sotelo does not fall into that trap and instead employs colors that capture the time period, with all its darkness and wonder, yet allowing every aspect of the visuals to remain seen. The first page is the perfect example of this, with Mechanika receiving the reader’s focus due to her white evening wear. She’s surrounded by wooden furniture, an olive wallpaper, a red tiled floor, and stunning gold work done on the metalwork that surrounds the panel. However, look closer — there’s coloring outside the metalwork: the visuals are sitting atop a wallpaper. These colors bring this world to life, and date it handsomely. Mechanika’s eyes are a brilliant red, giving her a sinister and intense edge. Take note of how the colors change the tone of the book: the dark colors of Singh’s visit change to light violets when Lewis is consulted. Blood reds appear in practically every panel of a person who is begun to be questioned on Page 10, planting a seed in the reader’s mind of this individual’s insincerity. The chase at the end of the book has a character using yellows and oranges to show their inhumanity. Sotelo is a major contributor to this book’s tone. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Michael Heisler is the book’s letterer and he is responsible for a considerable amount of dialogue, especially on the pages where Singh and Lewis speak with Mechanika. For all the text he’s required to place on a page it’s amazing that he is able to do so without drowning the art or stepping on key visual components of it. This is the sign of a master at work! The first seven pages have the characters in dialogue that requires Heisler to have a give and take in a single panel and he’s able to pull this off seamlessly with balloon placement. In addition to dialogue, Heisler creates sounds, a mechanical voice, and the tease for next issue. The sounds are fantastic, being both large and small, with the ones on 20 being outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Highest possible recommendation. If this book isn’t on your pull list you are missing out on a world that is staggering. Mystery, technology, and the nineteenth century collide into a cornucopia of wonders. A must read for anyone that enjoys comics. Overall grade: A+

To order a print copy go to http://www.joebenitez.com/?product=lady-mechanika-the-clockwork-assassin-2-cover-a-pre-order

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Lady-Mechanika-The-Clockwork-Assassin-2/digital-comic/568399?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see most of the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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