In Review: Monstro Mechanica #2

This is historical fiction at its finest.

The cover: In Leonardo’s workshop, Isabel sits on the back of the machine that takes up all her time. She looks at the reader fiercely, her stare boring into one’s soul. She’s sporting a sizable mallet in her fist, which she undoubtedly knows how to use. The machine is hunched forward, waiting to be activated. This cover by Chris Evenhuis with colors by Sjan Weijers shows an amazing Isabel, who receives much of the focus this issue. A great cover. Overall grade: A

The story: The book opens ominously with Father Minia writing a secret letter to someone and sends it via a mechanical pigeon. Moving to outside the city walls before the upcoming siege of Volterra, Isabel and Alessandro ready the machine, which springs to life before the man, startling him. Nearby Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo Machivelli discuss the battle. Neither is pleased with this battle, but realize they must do as they are commanded. They watch Alessandro order the machine to do many tasks, leading to da Vinci wondering why people insist on treating the device like a man. Machivelli reminds him he made it to look like a man. This sparks the politician to wonder why the inventor intends to send Isabel into the chaotic city on her own with the device. Regretfully, da Vinci says he doesn’t want to send her. The story moves to Rome where someone has a joyful pronouncement that will damn one of the leads. “City to Run” by Paul Allor has a lot of action as the pair seek the city’s Praetor Baroni and have to free him before sunrise, which is when the siege of the city will begin. The interactions between the pair are terrific, expanding both their characters and having plenty of thrills. When Isabel finds Baroni it’s a shocking reveal of a character that appears to be unhinged. What the machine is doing at the time is also thrilling, though its fate is left dangling in a cliffhanger. This is historical fiction at its finest. Overall grade: A

The art: Chris Evenhuis deliciously captures the time period of this story and creates believable fictions with the machine. The opening page shows this well with Minias in his study and the mechanical wonder he employs to deliver a message. The character looks terrific, wonderfully sinister, the pigeon is familiar, yet different enough, and the city beautiful. A turn of the page moves things to Volterra, complete with forest, soldiers, weapons, a wall, and a distant city. This looks fantastic. All the characters that appear emote perfectly: Alessandro, Isabel, da Vinci, and Machivelli. The design of the machine is very simple, matching what one would expect of a designer from the fifteen century. I love that his hands have only three fingers, giving him an alien feel. Pages 7 and 8 contain five panels each that show Isabel and the machine interacting and it’s fantastic looking. The visuals enhance the dialogue considerably. When the pair run about the city, it’s frightening for what obstacles they encounter and thrilling for the speed by which they make their way. Baroni is a fabulous looking character, whose visuals explain as much, if not more, to the reader than his dialogue. The image in the foreground of the final panel is a heartbreaker. Overall grade: A

The colors: Sjan Weijers makes the visuals on this book sing. The reds and tans of the opening page deliciously hint at the nefarious nature of Minias. The light blue sky that the pigeon flies off into is a complete contrast to the pulsing red that serves as the interiors of the father’s study. The light greens used for foliage are the perfect calming shade after Minias. The browns and tans used for the machine continually have me rethinking this mechanical device, whose future incarnations are entirely made of metal. I appreciate that Weijers uses violet and green to create the night rather than black and blue, allowing all aspects of the visuals to be seen and give the city an eerie tone. Not enough can be said about the clothing on Baroni that has him standing out in every panel he appears. Weijers is an excellent contributor. Overall grade: A

The letters: Paul Allor, this issue’s writer, also creates this issue’s scene settings, dialogue, quiet outbursts, the story’s title, and sounds. I really like the scene settings which are so different from all others in comics. The dialogue stands out considerably because it uses lower case letters, which instantly gives the speakers an elegant and historical tone. The quiet speech comes when someone cannot contain something and tries to muffle their voice or dialogue is shown from a distance. This, too, is something not seen often in comics and I love it! Overall grade: A

The final line: The Machine and Isabel run through a city in chaos on a rescue mission. The story is exciting and full of several surprises and the visuals are perfect. Historical fiction doesn’t get better than this! Definitely worth picking up! 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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