In Review: Monstro Mechanica #1

The story is fun historical fiction and the visuals are classical and futuristic. Eccezionale! 

The covers: Chris Evenhuis and Sjan Weijers, the interior artist and interior colorist for this issue, have created the A cover which features the three main characters of the book. Leonardo da Vinci is side by side with his apprentice Isabel. Leonardo has a calm demeanor on his face, while the younger Isabel looks intently at the reader. Behind the pair, primarily in silhouette, is the machine, the unnamed wooden machine that da Vinci has created. All three characters are in varying shades of gray, while a red spiral serves as the background. This is a solid image to show the protagonists of this series, but hiding the mechanical creature is withholding too much from potential readers. Better is the B cover by Ariela Kristantina and Andre Szymanowicz. This has the machine in profile, running to the right. Riding the creature’s back is Isabel. Both characters have brighter coloring than the A cover. They also stand out because they are superimposed over three massive glowing green-white gears that are atop a blue background. This cover stands out considerably more and features a much clearer image of the machine. This was the cover I purchased. Overall grades: A B and B A

The story: In the city morgue of Florence in 1472, Leonardo da Vinci sketches a human heart that lies on a table. Frustrated with his work, he crumples the paper and leaves. Outside, a man orders the famous man to walk with him and puts a knife into his back for persuasion. Leonardo elbows the man and escapes only to be stopped by three sword wielding men on the street who order him into a carriage. Watching the carriage speed by is Isabel, who notices that the machine is watching its master from high atop a building. Within the carriage, Leonardo recognizes the men are with the Papal States who work for Pope Sixtus, who desires he make new weapons for him. The machine leaps down on the carriage, pulls the men out, and throws them to the streets. And that’s when things get interesting. Paul Allor has written a enjoyable tale set in classical Italy, but infused it with something very high tech for the time: a wooden automaton. Leonardo is a great character, wanting to invent, but realizing that the political pull of the church and high standing families has their pull upon him. Isabel is also an excellent cast member, with her plunging this series into an unexpected direction starting on Page 26. This story could go anywhere, with da Vinci being forced to do something he doesn’t want to do and Isabel taking charge of the situation. The best line of the book is the last uttered on 14. I want more of this series now! Overall grade: A 

The art: For a series set in this time period it falls upon the artist to make the setting believable to sell its reality. Chris Evenhuis does that and so much more on this book. The opening panel is a terrific way to start this series: a human heart laying against a candle. The point of view pulls back to show Leonardo scribbling away and ultimately upset at his efforts. The exterior of the building is great and his clothes outstanding. Better still is the emotion that Evenhuis captures in his face as someone calls his name, which is mild surprise at being identified. His escape from the knife wielding man is good and the action of this escape really good, with his coat billowing out behind him beautifully. The carriage looks great and Isabel and the machine’s first appearances are strong, with the mechanical man striking an outstanding silhouette against the moon, both posing ready for action and leaping into it. The design of the machine is very cool: it’s futuristic for the time period, but simplistic enough to be acceptable for the story. I’d also like to direct some praise to the horses, because they often don’t look right when appearing in comics, but Evenhuis makes them look flawless. Leonardo’s demeanor during his dialogue with one of the men on 8 and 9 is very creepy, showing him to be a questionable character. I also like how the characters look like individuals rather than cookie cutters of the same faces and body types; this is apparent on 13 – 15. Isabel also meets some very unique characters, though I would have to say that one strongly resembles someone who would be more at home in Castle Grayskull. There’s a sequence on Pages 23 – 25 that has two characters speaking while something is set up. The action that’s occurring is fairly complicated, but Evenhuis communicates it easily to the reader. As with the story, I’m looking forward to seeing what Evenhuis is going to do with these characters. Overall grade: A 

The colors: Sjan Weijers is the book’s colorist and she adds to the book’s tone with her work. The first page could have been a much darker location, due to candlelight being the only source of light, but Weijers smartly goes for a soft orange to illuminate this locale. The same came be said on the streets at night, where violets and blues create the darkness. The characters’ flesh tones stand out nicely on these pages, making them become the reader’s focus when they appear. Green is used for scientific settings, both in the machine’s cloudy aftermath and the walls of Leonardo’s workshop. If the colors hadn’t been spot on for the male character on Page 17 I might not have guessed who that character was supposed to be. 21 and 22 have the colors going sinister for an environment that should be anything but, making this location and the individual that resides there very dubious. Weijers is adding to this book’s greatness. Overall grade: A

The letters: Not only is Paul Allor the writer and co-creator of this book, along with Chris Evenhuis, he’s also the letterer of this book. Allor does something that’s rare in comics and my hat’s off to him for doing so: he uses lower letters in the text! Yes, the scene settings and sounds are the big, bold all caps that one expects from a comic, but the letters used in dialogue employ upper and lower letters. This instantly sets the book apart from others visually and it gives the speech a classical feel, as if it’s being read from a novel. I loved this and wish that other letterers would follow suit. Overall grade: A

The final line: AfterShock has another great book on its hands with this mixing of technology and politics surrounding da Vinci. The story is fun historical fiction and the visuals are classical and futuristic. Eccezionale! Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy go to

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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