Pullbox Reviews: Lady Mechanika – Steampunk, Exorcisms, & an angry Spaniard…

Lady Mechanika journeys to the Spanish countryside to hunt a demonic creature allegedly stalking the local Barón’s son, but she quickly begins to suspect there’s more to the case than meets the eye.  What dark secrets are the Barón and his wife so desperately trying to hide? Features a main story drawn by guest artist Brian Ching (Supergirl, Star Wars) with a prologue by series regulars Joe Benitez and Martin Montiel. 

Still coming to terms with the ramifications of her last adventure (Lady Mechanika: La Belle Dame Sans Merci), the famed huntress with a mysterious past is called upon for a new case. Without the aid of her associate, inventive genius Mr. Lewis, Lady Mechanika travels to Spain where she will meet with the Baronesa Eleanor de Calvitero on a matter of grave import. Her son has fallen prey to an affliction most foul… demonic possession. While the demon may have been cast out by an ordained exorcist of the Catholic Church, the beast remains… bereft of access to the innocent lad but still plaguing him at night as it attempts to regain control.

Will the Lady Mechanika be able to allay the concerns of the Lady Eleanor?

Will this demon meet his match when faced with the half human, half machine Huntress?

Is it an actual case of demonic possession, or perhaps something even more sinister?

Will I be able to stop talking like the melodramatic narrator of a pulp fiction novel?

Carry on, stalwart reader, these questions will… well, I’m probably not gonna actually answer any questions cuz that’d be spoilers, but I think we can cover a few bases.

Joe Benitez’s Lady Mechanika is a series to which I’ve only lately gotten myself caught up. As fan of good steampunk adventure, I’m not sure why it took me so long but now that I’m here, I aim to stay. At first glance, Lady Mechanika may give the appearance of a retread archetype- physically augmented by a sinister cabal of scientists, with no memory of her past but convinced that it was done against her will, she searches for the secret of her origins while protecting a populace that is often fearful and distrusting of her.

Huh… That is kinda familiar, isn’t it? Trust me, if that were all Mechanika had going for her, I probably would’ve moved on to another title without looking back. But the Lady has so much more. Fans of steampunk should find a lot to get enthused over in Benitez’s version of Victorian England. Likewise, readers of adventure stories with complex plots won’t have any trouble getting into the fast-paced action, featuring secret organizations, shadowy conspiracies, and remote locations all over the globe. The only people who should really have a big problem with Lady Mechanika are going to be those who can’t come to grips with a Lady of Victorian England running around in trousers.

I don’t know what to tell you, man… You try running around fighting monsters and the forces of evil in a skirt and petticoats, see how easy it is.

Joe Benitez may be sharing the artistic chores now, but his presence is still strong on the title he created. Brian Ching & Martin Montiel have turned in some outstanding work for the opening chapter of Sangre. Their characters are expressive, with great detail given to facial features. The result is an excellent use of emotion to give a reader insight into the personality of the characters without having to rely too much on dialogue. When it’s time for the action to kick in, which is a guarantee for this title, the sense of flow and timing is spot on… if there were ever going to be a motion picture or animated feature done with Lady Mechanika, the producers wouldn’t have to look any farther than the source material for inspiration and storyboards when it comes to the choreography.

Putting the finishing touches on Benitez’s, Ching’s, & Montiel’s pencils, Studio J-13’s inks keep the detail (and there’s a LOT of it) crisp and clear. Throughout the issue, there’s never a case where a figure is lost in the deeply layered backgrounds. In my opinion, that by itself should qualify as a minor miracle… too often do I see great artwork obscured or lost in the details. The addition of Beth Sotelo’s colors cement the quality of Mechanika’s visual appeal, giving a great balance between light and shadow that keeps in touch with its gaslight setting.

Fair warning… the reader has to do some homework in order to come up to speed on what’s happening. M. M. Chen’s and Joe Benitez’s script may at times be heavy on the explanations as they establish the particulars of their story in this arc’s opening issue, but it’s never a chore. I feel like part of that is because the dialogue allowed room for readers to come to some conclusions on their own, without every detail being laid out in choppy exposition. Also, a nod has to be given to Michael Heisler whose lettering doesn’t interrupt or distract from the action in the panel. In some cases, a letterer can get caught up in stylizing their work to fit in with more exotic settings like these. Heisler doesn’t get drawn in by that temptation, but saves his creative touches for inner monologues and sound effects.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did, people. Lady Mechanika is an independent title that can easily stand shoulder to shoulder with- in many cases head shoulders above- the larger publications out there, so don’t wait on this one. Benitez has created a world with a great sense of visual style, and his artistic flair is still felt in the books that he’s not personally drawing. Whether you’re an electronic comic reader, or a collector of physical copies, Lady Mechanika is an all-around impressive title.

Final Score: 10+ (easily)

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