Lady Mechanika: Pick of the Year for 20111
My top pick of a series for the year 2011 is Aspen Comic’s Lady Mechanika, a comic set within a time-space that melds both billowy Victorian-era dress with cog, gear, and crank structural elements of the industrial steampunk genre.
Issue #3 continues the quest of Lady Mechanika, a woman with mechanical body parts, delving into her own origin. The expanding story arc widens and draws in more characters, including carnies from the Cirque Du Romani in this issue, with one of their own missing. Presumably the missing girl, Seraphina, has undergone the same procedure that manufactured Lady Mechanika.
Keen detective work allows her to assemble the necessary components at each scene needed to discover her past while being hunted down by her adversary, the bitter and deadly Lady Katherine de Winter, Countess of St. Germains, Bearer of the Seventh Key of the Inner Collective. The other adversary is the illustrious Nathaniel Blackpool, a man interested in acquiring the good Lady for his own nefarious schemes. As Mary Harris “Mother” Jones would describe this sort of sordid character “Injustice boils in men’s hearts as does steel in its cauldron, ready to pour forth, white hot, in the fullness of time.” At least two other mechanik creatures have been produced by Blackpool and his cronies’ manufacturing laboratory, one imp-like creature whom Lady Mechanika ultimately befriends before it dies and Seraphina.
Lady Mechanika glides through her world with companions Professor Littleton, who provides safe haven in the city, and Lewis who provides expertise in invention. The cockney accents pace the comic like the churning of gear to gear as it takes a little deciphering, but it definitely enhances the dialog and sets the characters in the period. Sharp wit is displayed often in this book and I find the questioning of Lady Mechanika by the disbelieving young Allie Littleton with their back and forth bantering to be humorous. Apparently, in Allie’s eyes, and probably the rest of the commoners, the legend of Lady Mechanika has become bigger than the actual person as often happens in the real world. The archaic Britannia fashion lends the comic a collector’s edition quality, as a penny novel from an oversea land. The covers often have the painted lady in sharp color oval portrait, as if found in a brooch, with pale paisley background.
From the inventive, constructive mind of Joe Benitez with the brilliant, sharp colors of Peter Steigerwald, Lady Mechanika is in a romantic steampunk gothic universe all her own. Hard like steel but with the elegance of radiating petals she roams through her universe alone despite a few loyal friends resonating in her wake. If it seems contrived I keep bringing up the universe in which she belongs, it’s because all of the vampire, zombie, and barbarian stories have been told. ‘My lord, she may be a punk, for many of them are neither maid, widow, nor wife’ (Shakespeare, 1603). If Lady Mechanika be none of these, she is divine. It’s time for new gods and goddesses to arise, widen their cult, a new world of steampunk, hybrid goth and industrial music personified, or a Steampunkia universe should arise in this character and book. Here’s to Benitez and Steigerwald keeping us enthralled in the new year and continuing to discover the modern Dea in Machina.