In my Bookcase: Lady Mechanika

THE FACTS

Title: Lady Mechanika

Creator: Joe Benitez

Writer: Joe Benitez & M. M. Chen

Artist: Joe Benitez, Martin Montiel, Peter Steigerwald, Brian Ching, and Beth Sotelo.

Publisher: Benitez Productions

All images in this review are borrowed from the creator’s website: www.joebenitez.com   

THE REVIEW

I’m not a big consumer of comics; I feel that my slightly OCD approach to reading things in chronological order, completionist personality, and tendency to go a little overboard with collecting, is a bad combination when approaching the overwhelming vastness of say, the Marvel Universe. Luckily for me, there are some great comics out there with a less intimidating number of issues.

One such is Lady Mechanika: a Steampunk, creator-owned comic book series by Joe Benitez.

Set in a fictional Victorian British Empire, this comic centers around the sole survivor of a mad scientist’s atrocious experiments, Lady Mechanika; a nickname coined by the tabloids as the experiments saw her arms and legs amputated, and replaced by mechanical limbs.

When we enter the story, quite some times has passed. Because she has no recollection of who she was or the life she led before her trauma, Lady Mechanika has reinvented herself. The mechanical implants have given her enhanced abilities, and she’s now a renowned detective living in Mechanika City: The city of the future.

In the first issue, Lady Mechanika stumbles across a young girl who, like her, have been experimented on and given mechanical implants similar to her own. This opens the gate to buried memories as she sets out to try and help the girl and solve the mystery of herself at the same time.

My relationship with Steampunk is sporadic. About ten years back, I had a paranormal romance faze during which I read a lot of Steampunk romance. My taste and preference in books have changed over the years, and I’ve had a hard time getting back into the genre. One reason is that, although I like the historical setting, the visuals, and all the imaginative inventions of Steampunk, I don’t care how it all works. I don’t want page upon page of authors explaining the mechanics and science behind all their clever creations: it bores me to death.

Fortunately, Lady Mechanika is something else. It’s not Steampunk romance, nor is it the science-heavy “serious” steampunk; it does its own thing. The focus is on action-heavy adventure stories, often with a paranormal twist, where the Lady kicks some serious ass.

Both Lady Mechanika and the reoccurring side characters are well-rounded, complex individuals with good and bad qualities. They are people with depth, not cookie-cutter heroes.

The bad guys are bad, even somewhat generic bad, think 80’s movies: the Nazis in Indiana Jones, Hans Gruber in Die Hard, or Starwars’s Emperor Palpatine. They might not be particularly deep characters, but they’re entertaining.

As for the world, it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s also big. In contrast to much of the Steampunk I’ve read, these stories take place all over the world. Sure, there’s the traditional location of London and the fictional location of Mechanika City, but we also travel to the African continent, Mexico, and the current run takes us to Spain.

Thankfully, this also means that we get a decent amount of diversity in the characters. You have kick-ass African warrior queens, there’s the Day of the Dead special set in Mexico during the Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, which is gorgeous, and speaking of gorgeous, there’s Inspector Singh. Yummy!

The art style, displayed on glossy, full-color pages, is breathtakingly beautiful, intricate, and vibrant. It’s so detailed, imaginative and despite the classy art nouveau style, sometimes even whimsy. I really, really love it. It just pops. I mean, look at these colors.

As someone who doesn’t have a local comic book shop and has to buy them online, I’ve been disappointed so many times when the covers have been beautiful and vibrant only to find that the comic itself is drawn in a completely different style; one I don’t appreciate.

With Lady Mechanika, what you see on the cover is what you get inside as well. Even the variant covers stay reasonably true to the original art style.

My favorite thing about this series is that it’s separated into stand-alone miniseries; you could jump into the series at any point in the story. If you buy a trade paperback, you’re getting the complete story arch for that run of the series. Of course, you have the overarching mystery of Lady Mechanika that runs throughout the entire series, (and is yet to be resolved) but it’s not really the narrative focus.

ISSUES, RUNS AND VOLUMES

Every mini-series contains between two to six issues (so far) and are released monthly during a run. As of May 2019, there are six trade paperback volumes collecting each of the miniseries. So far the series contains:

1. Lady Mechanika: The Mystery of the Mechanical Corps – Six issues, 160 pages

2. Lady Mechanika: The Tablet of Destiny – Six issues, 160 pages

3. Lady Mechanika: The Lost Boys of West Abbey – Two issues, 64 pages

3.5 Lady Mechanika: La Dama De La Muerte – Day of the Dead Special, 88 pages

4. Lady Mechanika: The Clockwork Assassin – Three issues, 88 pages

5. Lady Mechanika: La Belle Dame Sans Meric – This is the most recent TP available, it released May 2019. Three issues, 104 pages

6. Lady Mechanika: Sangre – this is the newest run. The first part of this five-part miniseries released in June 2019. If it follows the same schedule as it has so far, a TP should be out next year.

There are also three oversized hardcover volumes, with the third one including both volume 3 and 4 of the TP volumes. These do not include the “La Dama De La Muerte” Day of the Dead Special.

As for availability, despite being an independent, creator-owned comic I find it’s easy to get ahold of, even for me here in Sweden. You can find them at many big-name retailers as well as at Joe Benitez online shop: www.joebenitez.com where you can also find merchandise, prints, autographed copies, exclusives, variant covers as well as his other work.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If you’re like me, appreciative of comics as a medium, but overwhelmed at the thought of trying to navigate though the massive number of issues, reboots, and alternate universes of big-name comics, Lady Mechanika is a great alternative.

It’s a beautiful, imaginative, action-fueled comic that, with its mini-series format and a limited number of issues to every run, is easy to get into and collect.

If you like the idea of Indian Jones-style adventures in a gorgeous Steampunk environment, with a kick-ass female protagonist, you’ll love this.

If you’ve read Lady Mechanika and have something to add for potential readers, or if you have recommendations of other great comics or Steampunk, please, leave a comment. 

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