In Review: Lady Mechanika: La Belle Dame Sans Merci #3

These visuals are not to be missed for any reason.

The covers: Six different covers to close out this miniseries which you all should be picking up! Joe Benitez and Beth Sotelo , the interior artist and colorist, have created the A cover which features the title character with her hands on her hips facing the right. She’s got her hair pulled back, goggles on her head, a high collar buttoned up, white short sleeves on her top that poof out, and long black leather brown gloves that match her collar and corset. She has on a matching leather belt with a pouch and a pistol. She has on tight pants with two alternating colors of gray. Behind her is one of Benitez’s signature metal circular constructions on rust wallpaper. Terrific. However, the cover I purchased was the B by Benitez and Peter Steigerwald. Mechanika is sitting on a light blue cushion that’s a part of the metal circle. She is wearing a tremendous black hat with several matching feathers. Her top is low cut, but tasteful. A large black feather sets off its left side and several emerge from her back. Her blouse is black and she wears the same pants from the A. The train of her dress is black on top and violet within, and it wraps toward the front of the illustration. The interiors of the circle are mustard. A stunning cover. The C is also by Benitez and consists of his pencils for the B cover. Also exceptional. The online exclusive is the D by Benitez & Sabine Rich. This has, appropriately, Mechanika in almost the same clothes as the A, though the pants are light blue and long boots are visible. She is also sporting an elaborate pair of fairy wings. They are beautiful. The background is a dark to light blue with the character framed at the bottom by another of Benitez’s metallic creations, with this an incomplete rectangle. This would be a welcome addition to anyone’s collection! The Alamo City Convention/L.A. Comic Con cover is the E by Benitez & Steigerwald. This is the same pose as the B cover, but the lady’s clothes are colored differently and her face is painted for the Day of the Dead. Again, one worth picking up. The final cover is the S cover which is the Blank Sketch cover. This contains all the text found at the top of the other issues, but is a blank white so one can get their favorite artist to create a one of a kind illustration or get all the creators of this book to sign it. I like these variants, but without a drawing they’re not much to look at. Overall grades: A A, B A+, C A+, D A+, E A+, and S C

The story: M.M. Chen and Joe Benitez conclude this story excellently. Mechanika is called by Fred to her room where she says that Uncle Archie has disappeared after touching the hand of a fairy that was in her room. The girl’s mechanical teddy bear states the woman had pretty silver hair. “Silver hair?” Mechanika says. “Like Mr. Lewis’s fiancée?” The child has never met the woman and can’t say. The next morning the three go to Archibald Lewis’s home only to find everything being packed up by the household help. It seems the pair have decided to move. Looking around what’s left, Winifred spies a painting of the fairy on the wall. Mechanika says that it’s Miss Shi. Upon closer inspection, Fred finds the artist’s signature. The artist died over 200 years ago. How could the woman look the same? Mechanika calls on an old friend for advice before she, Fred, and the bear journey to Paris to find Archie and his mysterious fiancée. When they meet the intentions of Shi are revealed and there’s nothing that can seemingly be done to save Archie. Naturally, Mechanika has a solution and it’s fantastic! The final two pages consist of the epilogue, showing how one character is dealing with the story’s resolution, while another shows how someone is never alone. I loved this for the dramatic turn in one character’s life. I’m looking forward to seeing how this character will be handling things when the next Lady Mechanika series premieres. Overall grade: A+

The art: This book is staggering in its details. The pencils are by Joe Benitez and Martin Montel with digital inks by Studio J-13. The book opens with a strong image of the Lady’s open eye as she hears Fred scream. The image then pulls back to show her throwing off her blanket on the sofa and showing the detailed hallway that reveals Fred and her bear. The third panel is the largest of the page with Mechanika running down the hall (at the reader) with her pistol held ready. She looks awesome and the sense of motion in her captured figure and the strands of hair that fall on either side of her face show her ready for action. Look also at the intricate details of the gears and bars that comprise the border around this image. It increases the Steampunk tone of the visuals considerably when they appear. The close-ups of Fred and Lady M’s eyes on the second page gives a soul to the words they’re speaking. The third page shows Lewis and Shi’s house shutting down and the architecture and its composition is enough to be enough details for any book. When Fred’s eyes pop at the bottom of this page the reader knows something shocking has been seen. Shi’s image on 4 is beautiful and absolutely ghostly, which suits the fanciful terms that Fred has been using. The city scenes that follow on Pages 5 and 8 – 12 are amazing. There’s nothing else like them in comics. It’s like witnessing the structures of Blade Runner for the first time; one cannot help be caught up in their size, detail, and wonder. If the artists had decided to take an entire issue just to travel through the streets of Paris, I would have been happy. When Shi appears she is a goddess, not only with her looks but her clothing. Archie’s puppy dog eyes are to die for every time they appear. The borders of panels change dramatically and appropriately for a key scene on Pages 18 – 19. The outfit that Shi wears is epic. The layout on 23 captures the emotion of the moment spectacularly by tilting and teasingly showing how someone reacts to an exit. The penultimate page is amazing again for the setting, but even it cannot overwhelm the dramatic images of one character. The final page shows someone looking at a location that’s as fantastic as anything I’ve ever seen for destruction. These visuals are not to be missed for any reason. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Considering the amount of visual details that are in every panel, it takes an expert colorist to guide the reader through the book. Beth Sotelo is such a colorist. There’s a lot of darkness in the opening scene, but rather than use blacks or grays to create the night, Sotelo uses violets of every shade. This allows the stark red eyes of Mechanika to stand out constantly, as well as the gold trim on her vest and gun to pop. I also love how the metallic borders are given a gold color, making them catch the reader’s eye. Take a look at all the different shades used by Sotelo in the homes, giving their an air of reality. The pink skies behind the dirigibles are beautiful. These skies preview the colors worn by Mechankia on her trip. Violet is the color for nobility and it’s perfect that this color is used for Shi when she’s first encountered in the flesh, and it’s used for her outfit for her final appearances. The blues that are used for the closing conflict perfectly create night without obscuring the art. A superior job by Sotelo is to be found on every page. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Michael Heisler is the book’s letterer and he creates yells, dialogue, mechanical speech, sounds, a trio of final words, one whispered word of denial, and the tease for the next series. All of Heisler’s lettering is easy to read and it’s impressive that he’s able to insert so much text into panels without stepping onto a key portion of the visual. Placement of dialogue in detailed works can be a headache, but Heisler makes it look easy. The mechanical speech of Fred’s bear is delightfully robotic. The whispered word of denial is painful to read, matching the intensity of that panel brilliantly. There aren’t too many sounds in this issue, but when they appear they punctuate each panel excellently. Overall grade: A+

The final line: You really should be reading this book. The story is fun, with interesting and surprising characters. These visuals are not to be missed for any reason. Sumptuous is too pedestrian a word for how this book looks. One doesn’t experience this, one falls into it and is immersed in a fantastic world that other books wish they could create. This gets my highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

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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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