I'm one of the first to drop a book like a hot potato if it slides too long between issues. I surprised myself by picking this issue up this week. After all, it has been seven months since issue #1 and it is only the second issue. Walking away from a book with minimal investment (financially and chronologically) wouldn't be all bad, right?
Except this darn book hooked me with issue #1 and I've been waiting for another fix since then. I even stopped by the Aspen booth at C2E2 to get a status update, not as a reporter or critic, but as a fan who has been waiting for more.
I certainly got more in this exceptionally dense issue from Joe Benitez, Peter Steigerwald, and Josh Reed. This issue covers a broad range of locations, brings in a few characters, and continues to unfold the steampunk world that Joe Benitez is revealing. It all continues to build, adding depth, layers, and mystery. The mechanically enhanced young lady from the first issue gives Lady Mechanika the chance to explore new settings and test old foes in an organic way as it all comes together.
The art on this book had me flashing back to the earliest days of the Image brand, with stunning layouts and art that seemed to drive the story almost as much as it served itself. Benitez is definitely channeling that era, but this issue is loaded with story. There is a lengthy exchange between Lady Mechanika and Commander Winter that floods the pages with word balloons, but the imagery is crafted to accommodate those dialog bubbles quite nicely. As a matter of fact, the minimal use of imagery in the conversation is quite powerful and helps establish the range of differences between the two ladies.
The rest of the issue is lavishly textured with detail and pattern, allowing Benitez and Steigerwald to combine their strengths to deliver a hauntingly beautiful book. Reed's text is stunning and well conceived. The dialog boxes for Lady Mechanika and the setting boxes leave no doubt as to the era this book is set in.
My biggest gripe is the bombastic apparel that Lady Mechanika dresses in. Sure, bustiers are expected for a steampunk comic, but hip-hugger pants are certainly an odd choice. I'm no fashionista, nor am I a student of fashion history, but if a woman were to dress in pants during the early days of the Industrial Revolution, I'm pretty certain those pants would shade towards the high-wasted selection. Truly, however, that's not much of a gripe, but it does cover a blemish that I personally find in this book.
This book is only a pair of issues deep, but those two issues have been some of the best comics I've read in quite a while in terms of pure enjoyment of the four-color art form. Benitez is taking full advantage of everything a comic book can be and having a great deal of fun with it. This story packs in absurd comic science wrapped in a crunchy steampunk coating with a creamy mystery center. It's enjoyable, charming, and a grand reprieve from the event books I find myself reading more and more of each and every week. Do yourself a favor, take a break from the events and remind yourself how entertaining comics should be.