In Review: Lady Mechanika: La Belle Dame sans Merci #1

I defy you to find a book that looks as sumptuous. Highest possible recommendation.

The covers: Eleven different covers to find should one be a fervent fan. The A cover is by Joe Benitez & Beth Sotelo and has the title character sporting a bowler with googles, short sleeves that poof, a bustier-like vest, tight blue pants, and white boots. Behind her is a large metallic circle containing a blue vortex. All of this is against an aged brown background. This is beautiful, but I’m afraid that adjective is applicable to all of these covers. The B cover by Benitez & Peter Steigerwald is the copy I picked up because it sports Mechanika in a shoulderless white dress. She’s sitting in a velvet cushioned gold chair. Her hair is up and is adored with flowers. Behind her is a detailed tapestry, while around her are some sensational golden swirls. This needs to be a poster or print. The exact same image is used for the Retailer Incentive Edition, the C, which features the pencils of this illustration. It’s fantastic. Looking really tough is the JoeBenitez.com Edition, the D, by Benitez & Sabine Rich. A bust shot of the lady from her right side is the focus. She’s wearing a white top hat and matching white dress, though her chest is covered in black material resembling a man’s tuxedo top. She’s in a pale blue-violet circle that is decorated with lavish loops in gold. The entire image is on a black background. Simply put, WOW! The San Diego Comic-Con gets the E cover by Benitez & Sotelo. This is the same illustration as the D cover, but with different colors; the most noticeable difference is the background is orange. Also incredible. Another amazing cover is the F, the OriginalComics.Fr Edition also featuring art by Benitez & Rich. This cover features Mechanika in a stunning white dress with pink highlights, a massive French hat with incredible rose colored feathers, holding an intricate lace parasol. Behind her is an incredible illustration of Paris, flowers, and dirigibles. This is worth the trip to France to pick up! The G cover is by Miguel Mercado and is a Yeteryear Comics Edition. I’m reviewing this based on the tiny photo within the inside front cover of the book I purchased. This features Mechanika wearing her outfit from the A cover within a highly detailed room. It looks like she’s carrying a rifle, but I could be wrong. What I can make out of this looks good. The J cover is also by Mercado and is a textless version of the G. Again, from what I can see, it looks good. The I and J are Special Edition Metal covers by Jamie Tyndall, but I couldn’t find versions of these online. The S cover is the Black Sketch Edition which features all the credits and wordage at the top as other covers, but is blank so that a fan can get a one of a kind illustration by their favorite artist or get the signatures of the creators on the cover. I love these covers, but on their own they’re not much. Overall grades: A-F A+, G and J B+, and S C+

The story: M.M. Chen and Joe Benitez’s tale begins in an undisclosed mansion where an artist named Lorenzo feverishly makes a drawing. The man is surrounded by several paintings and statues. An off panel voice says, “Lorenzo, my dearest…” He doesn’t even look up from his paper as he replies, “No time…There’s not enough time! I must finish…Must finish…my work…before…” A sparkling violet mist which soon is revealed to be a fungus-like thing covers the side of Lorenzo’s face, ultimately moving to his eyes. The artist’s final words are “…Before…Aaahhhh…” The story then moves to Inspector Singh arriving at Lady Mechanika’s home. He’s there to ask if she broke into Lord Blackpool’s house to steal the mechanical arm that he discovered. She said she had, but that another mechanical woman, like her, stole it from her. That thief implied that she knew Mechanika before her arms, legs, and eyes were replaced. Knowing she wants to know why she was given her cybernetic implants and limbs, he provides her with the address of the location where Blackpool found the limb. Their conversation is cut short when the lady’s presence is needed at the local pub because one of her allies has imbibed too much. Whom she takes from this location is always fun to see, but why he is in such a terrible state is heartbreaking. The next setting reintroduces a young foe for the protagonist, who is fun, but it’s at Mr. Lewis’s home where an ominous character is introduced. The final four pages are the shockers of the book, with a memory and several new characters taking this character into tense territory. I love the mystery and the dialogue between characters teases so much. Overall grade: A+

The art: The pencils on this book are by Joe Benitez and Martin Montiel with digital inks by Studio J-13. The visuals are staggering sumptuous on this book. The opening page shows an incredible exterior of a mansion, which is followed by a larger image of an artist’s room that’s decorated with several works. Lorenzo has a manic look of one who is lost to the urges that compel him to create. The violet entity that engulfs the artist would make H.P. Lovecraft shudder. This series is famous for having gears, pipes, and wires surround many of the panels to remind the reader of the Steampunk environment and right out of the gate several appear on this page and continue throughout the book. It’s not a necessary touch, but one that increases the visuals tremendously. Singh practically has a full-paged splash on Page 2 to introduce him to the reader and he looks fantastic. He’s handsome and his clothes are wonderfully stylish. I love the back and forth visuals between Singh and Mechanika, suggesting more than a working relationship, with every smile or raised eyebrow teasing. The exterior and interior shown on 6 is incredible, as is the introduction to Mechanika’s friend. The way he’s walking reinforces his mental state for the reader. Page 9 is a jaw-dropping locale, making me wish that such a place existed. The character on 10 looks terrific and the focus on Mechanika on the next page is awesome. The close-ups on the eyes on this page create some solid tension. Page 14 introduces two new characters and they look incredible. The setting is also a wowser. I love the deliriously joyful look of the male character; it’s funny and also completely wrong. A piece of furniture and a character on 18 are startling for their visuals, leading to a massive visual surprise on 19. The final page is a true full-paged splash and it’s one that will leave the reader guessing several negative outcomes. That’s how you end a book and leave a reader wanting more! Overall grade: A+

The colors: I’m glad that Beth Sotelo is coloring this book and I also have tremendous sorrow for her. First, she makes the visuals spring to life exceptionally well and leads the reader flawlessly to look at key elements of the art. Second, this art is so detailed I cannot imagine how difficult it is to choose from her palette what goes where. It would drive me insane. Look at how well she captures the evening in the first panel and the dark interiors in the second. The violets used for the whatever-that-is are delightfully unearthly. The gold borders of gears and pipes is just so cool throughout the book. The lady’s eyes are brilliantly bold in an electric crimson every time she appears, constantly reminding the reader she’s been augmented. I like Sotelo’s blending of colors in panels; for example, the first on Page 10 starts in a light green and smoothly evolves to a gray by the bottom of the panel, creating a floor. This is really neat! The violet that a character wears on 14 could be teasing a relationship from the first page of this issue. The work done with golds and bronzes on the metals on 15 are incredible. The coloring of sounds on the penultimate page make them pop off the page. The reds used on the final page instantly direct the reader to focus on one character, with the whites bringing the reader’s eye downwards. A sensational job. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Michael Heisler is responsible for creating this issue’s opening quote, dialogue, scene settings, sounds, yells, and the tease for next issue. The opening quote is glorious for looking aged appropriately for the time period. The scene settings begin with a bolded first letter that instantly catches the reader’s eye. The sounds are few, though when they appear add some nice visual punches to the artwork. Overall grade: A+

The mini-poster: That’s right! The middle two pages can be pulled out for a textless poster of the A cover. What a neat inclusion that leaves me wondering why other books don’t do the same. A neat idea and a sensational image. Overall grade: A+

The final line: This book earns my highest possible recommendation of the week. This is a fantastic book for its story and visuals. This is why comic books continue to exist as an art form. I defy you to find a book that is as sumptuously detailed as this. Get yourself a copy while you can! Overall grade: A+

To order a print copy go to http://www.joebenitez.com/product/lady-mechanika-la-belle-dame-sans-merci-1-cover-a-sotelo/

To order a digital copy go to https://www.comixology.com/Lady-Mechanika-La-Belle-Dame-sans-Merci-1/digital-comic/697712?ref=c2VhcmNoL2luZGV4L2Rlc2t0b3Avc2xpZGVyTGlzdC90b3BSZXN1bHRzU2xpZGVy

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

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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