Graphic Novel Review: Lady Mechanika vol 1

Synopsis:

Discover a beautifully illustrated steampunk world of airships, monsters, and one courageous but haunted heroine…

The tabloids dubbed her “Lady Mechanika,” the sole survivor of a mad scientist’s horrific experiments which left her with mechanical limbs. Having no memory of her captivity or her former life, Lady Mechanika eventually built a new life for herself as an adventurer and private investigator, using her unique abilities to solve cases the proper authorities couldn’t or wouldn’t handle. But she never stopped searching for the answers to her own past.

Set in a fictionalized steampunk Victorian England, a time when magic and superstition clashed with new scientific discoveries and inventions, Lady Mechanika chronicles a young woman’s obsessive search for her identity as she investigates other mysteries involving science and the supernatural.

This volume collects the entire first Lady Mechanika mini-series The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse, including its prequel chapter The Demon of Satan’s Alley, plus a complete cover art gallery.

First Thought:

I’ve been aiming to read this series for a while, but it was always hard to find any of the individual issues. Then I found the Free Comic Book Day issue and after reading it I was determined to read the entire series. That issue intrigued me enough to hunt down the first volume, hopefully the story ends as it started.

Ratings:

Art: 5

I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork in this volume. I rather like the design of Lady Mechanika, she was elegant and attractive but she was normally portrayed in rather logical and conservative clothing. Based on some of the alternative covers and various artwork in the back of the volume, I was afraid that Lady Mechanika would end up in sexy and revealing costumes. However, her various outfits remained rather conservative and practical throughout the story. The other characters were rather interesting as well, their designs unique and easily distinguishable. My favorite character design-wise was Arliquinn, who was pretty much a pink Harliquinn ballerina. The various outfits for all the characters were well thought out and vary detailed, even down to the stitched patterns on corsets. The colors were well down as well. Most of the story was told in dark settings, but at times the light and dark colors contrasted very well. In fact, towards the end Arliquinn was used to add bright color to otherwise very darkly lit scenes.

Story: 3

This volume not only contained the first story but the prologue as well. The prologue was rather interesting as it introduces Lady Mechanika’s want to find her creator and her origin; it also serves to introduce one of the villains in the first story. I wish there was a little bit more to the prologue and that it served more of a purpose in the main story. The prologue only has a passing mention in the main story and Mechanika’s main mission, to find her creator, is mentioned within the main story near the beginning so the prologue really doesn’t serve a purpose but to introduce some of the villains.

The story of the first volume is pretty engaging. Lady Mechanika is trying to solve the mystery to a possible murder that may or may not have any connections to her past. It was interesting to read as she figured out the mystery, though I wish that there was more problem solving and more build up to the solving of the mystery. It felt like the plot advanced more because of conveniences than actual planning, I understand that graphic novels are a bit limited in time but that doesn’t excuse the fact the story was hindered by lack of proper development. There were also many scenes in which there was too much dialogue and it not only messed up with the flow but also cluttered up the panels.

Overall: 4

Volume 1 was very beautiful to look at and it has an interesting story, though I felt like it was held back by extremely long and wordy conversations between hero and villain. The art is very detailed and I spent a lot of time just looking at all of the various designs both scenic and character. If you enjoy steampunk and/or mysteries this story will be time well spent!

Details:

Title: Lady Mechanika vol. 1: The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse

Book: 1

Issue(s): 0-5

Publisher: Benitez Productions

Writer(s): Joe Bentez

Illustrator: Joe Bentez

Colors: Peter Steigerwald

Letters: Josh Reed

Released Date: November 18th 2015

Pages: 160

Genre(s): Steampunk, Mystery, Action

Comic Book Review: FCBD Lady Mechanika

Synopsis:

Introduce new readers to this steampunk bestseller, which has been remarkably successful with female readers as well as fans of the popular steampunk genre, with this FCBD special that includes the original 14-page one-shot introducing Lady Mechanika, a young woman in Victorian England with mechanical limbs and no memory of how she got them, searching desperately for the secrets to her past, plus excerpts from the Lady Mechanika trades and comics!

What I First Thought:

I got this comic from the local store during Free Comic Book Day 2017. I’ve seen Lady Mechanika floating around at the various comic book stores that I’ve been into and I’ve been interested in reading about her for a while. So when I saw this edition I decided to finally take the plunge and see if this dark, steampunk lady would suit my fancy!

Ratings:

Art: 4/5

I really liked the art. Everything was well drawn and detailed. You could see the detailing in her outfit real well, specifically on her vest. The patterns on the vest were faint so that it didn’t distract from the overall scene, but you could see it well enough to give her clothing a distinctive and authentic feel. The action scenes weren’t too congested with unnecessary lines, sounds, etc. that would draw you away from what was happening. Some of the facial expressions were a bit too dramatic but overall the people looked decently designed. My one complaint it that Lady Mechanika looks to have Barbie’s proportions. I understand how corsets work, they make the wait look thinner and the boobs stand out more, but her body just doesn’t look right. Overall the designs, detailing, and the colors are fantastic.

Story: 4/5

I really enjoyed the intro to the character, it was enough to a good glimpse at her personality and what drives but still leaves you wanting more. And boy do I want to read more about this dark, mysterious heroine! The other two previews to the later volumes were interesting, they were shorter than the excerpt from the prologue. I think I would have enjoyed the other two more if I knew more about the story and they were just too short. I’m really curious as to what happens in those volumes now, but I wish there was a little more to let me know what to expect. Either way, I’m interested in reading more from this series!

Overall: 4/5

Details:

Title: Lady Mechanika

Issue: Free Comic Book Day edition

Publisher: Benitez Productions

Writer: Joe Benitez

Art: Joe Benitez

Colors: Peter Steigerwald

Lettering: Josh Reed

Released Date: May 5th, 2016

Pages: 28

Genre: Mystery, Science-fiction, Teen, Action, Steampunk

Book Review: The Golden Spider

the-golden-spider

Details:

Title: The Golden Spider (The Elemental Web Chronicles)

Author: Ann Renwick

Publisher: self-published

Release Date: August 8th 2016

Genre: Steampunk, Romance, Mystery

Pages: 482

Synopsis:

London papers scream of dirigible attacks, kraken swarms, and lung-clogging, sulfurous fogs. But a rash of gypsy murders barely rates mention.

Lady Amanda is tired of having both her intelligence and her work dismissed.

After blackmailing her way into medical school, she catches the eye of her anatomy professor from the moment she walks into his lecture hall. Is he interested in her? Or only her invention–a clockwork spider that can spin artificial nerves?

Lord Thornton, a prominent neurobiologist, has been betrayed.

Secret government technology has been stolen from his laboratory, and a foreign spy is attempting to perfect it via a grisly procedure… using gypsies as test subjects. The last thing he needs is the distraction of a beautiful–and brilliant–new student, even if her spider could heal a deteriorating personal injury.

Until her device is stolen and used in the latest murder.

Lord Thornton has no option but to bring her into his laboratory as well as the investigation where they must fight their growing, yet forbidden, attraction. Bodies accumulate and fragile bonds are tested as they race across London, trying to catch the spy before it’s too late.

My First Thoughts:

I always love to find good steampunk books and there are never enough of them! So when I was presented with story I immediately said yes.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

This story was absolutely fantastic! While this book is a romance, that single element doesn’t drive the story like other books. The Golden Spider is very much a mystery novel with a side of romance and a touch and steampunk.

The mystery of this story was quite interesting to follow, and it had me guessing for most of the book. The murders weren’t too gruesome to read about, the author didn’t go into a lot of detail describing the look of the body and such. When she did go into detail, she used very scientific words, which made sense because both of the main characters are in the medical field, to describe what had happened to the body and thus allowing the reader to be slightly removed and less repulsed by the image in their mind. By the end of the novel none of the big twists shocked me. This isn’t a slight against the story telling, most books fail to shock me with their big twists because I’ve guessed them early on. The mystery did stump me for most of this book and there were some minor twists that I didn’t see coming.

The characters were likeable enough. I really enjoyed Thorton more than Amanda. Lady Amanda was fine, however she seemed rather basic. It’s not uncommon for the heroine of a romance novel to be extraordinary in some way, normally there super smart compared to their peers. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that her character was cliché, because the author took great strides in proving how intelligent her female lead was by showing her thought process and even including the right terminology when necessary. However, Lady Amanda fails to stand out in my mind, which isn’t a point against the author, unlike her male counterpart. Thorton was different. I’ve never read a story before, especially a romance, where the male lead is handicapped in some way and is a bit self-conscious about it, afraid of receiving help from others but needing it in the end. Normally, a male character with his kind of personality would turn me off, but his injury and all the related baggage helped round out his character, making him rather likeable.

For the most part, the minor characters were interesting as well. There were a few that were quite forgettable, but the others had unique characteristics or actions that helped them stick in the mind, the gypsies were my favorite.

With any steampunk, I’m curious about how the author weaves the normal elements of the genre into their story. For many stories, the steampunk elements are mostly in the detailing of the environment, the fashion, etc. Not many stories that I have read actually do much with steampunk ideas beyond ‘oh look I added gears and steam to everything’. The Golden Spider actually weaves the elements into the plot, especially with Amanda’s device and the work that it does. I was absolutely fascinated with the world that the author created with steampunk, and I enjoyed the detailing and the functionality of her creations.

For the most part, this book is fantastic. My only complaints are the ending and some of the random sections with our killer. A few times the author chose to write from the killer’s perspective, as a way of giving the readers some clues as to who they might be. However, they were random and very far from each other. I would have preferred if we saw more from the villain’s side, not much, but a few more times to make those sections appear less disjointed with the rest of the story. As for the end, it was a fine ending but with how the rest of the story read I was expecting more. Everything seemed to wrap up so nicely with most of the loose ends getting tied in the last couple of pages. I wanted to know more about the killer’s motives and some answers to some of the backstory that was presented earlier in the story. I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next installment, which I will definitely be looking for.

Final Thoughts:

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves steampunk, romance, or mystery, or all of the above. No one genre dominates the story, which I appreciated because sometimes romance driven mysteries are rather dry and cliché. This mystery is well balanced, not very gory, and fun to follow. There are some pretty heavy scientific and medical terms in this book, they are scientists so it makes sense, however, there’s enough context to make it easier to get a general idea of what’s being said without relying on Google. Also, there is sex in this book, just to warn you in case it turns you off like some of the other reviewers I’ve read.

Rating(s):

4/5

Overall this book is fantastic. The world the author creates is detailed and well imagined while leaving the reader with enough questions to want to keep exploring in later books. The romance, while a little cliché, is realistic and enjoyable without stealing the spotlight. Some people might not enjoy the technical jargon or medical terminology, but they’re easy enough to understand. What keeps this story from getting 5/5 for me is the ending and the few sections told about our killer. There were 2-3 times in which the story followed the villain, which is fine, but they seemed so random and jarring that it took me out of the story a little. Just a few more sections with the killer, and it would have been fine. As for the ending, it was too short and clean for me. Most of the loose ends were taken care of, but they were all told to us and not shown. The rest of the book goes through great lengths to show and not tell, and I feel like the ending falls short of the standard the rest of the book set up. I understand if the author didn’t want to  go into too much detail, however, I think the readers deserved more than two or three pages. All in all, I’mm looking forward to the next book!

Related Reviews/Books:

A Curse of Ash and Iron

Book Review: Trampling in the Land of Woe

NOTICE: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

trampling-in-the-land-of-woeDetails:

Title: Trampling in the Land of Woe (The Patron Saints of Hell #1)

Author: William L.J. Galaini

Publisher: Scarlet River Press

Release Date: September 14, 2015

Genre(s): Fantasy, Steampunk, Horror, Adventure

Pages: 204 (eBook)

Synopsis:

As World War I rages on Earth, Hephaestion, lauded general and soul mate of Alexander the Great—and now a citizen of Purgatory—embarks on the darkest, most challenging journey of his existence: descending into The Pit of Hell to rescue his king. Chased by Hellbeasts, hunted by Jesuits, and aided by unexpected allies, Hephaestion tests the bounds of loyalty, dedication, and even death as he faces the greatest demon of all: himself. A blend of steampunk and Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Trampling in the Land of Woe drives through the cobblestoned streets of New Dis, soars above The Pit in airships, and then stumbles down into the terror-ridden rings themselves. Steam-powered trains, zeppelins, and ornithopters zoom by in a mash-up of literary proportions, all to answer one question: What will one man do to understand the meaning of love and truth?

What I First Thought:

I’m always up for reading any story that deals with historical events and characters, especially ones that I know and love learning about. I have read stories before with queer characters and I’ve read stories that mentions or briefly show the love between two characters of the same sex. However, I have yet to read a story that focuses solely on a queer main character and their love for another. I’ve been interested in a while, and I’ve really wanted to broaden my personal library with queer fiction, especially after reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and getting interested in her other book Carry On. However, I have yet to find the latter and I haven’t had the time (or money) really to comb through the shelves for those kinds of books. So I was rather excited when I was offered a chance to read and review Trampling in the Land of Woe. It was an added bonus that it was about Alexander the Great and his famed lover, and dearest friend, Hespaestion!

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

The first thing I want to say is daaaaaaaaaamn! This story is overflowing with creativity and imagination that outshines almost everything that I have ever read. The author’s depiction of Hell and how it changed with the times on Earth was absolutely fascinating. I loved how the author mixed old and new technologies together so effortlessly, creating wonderful images of blimps and old fashion naval ships with steel parts.

Galaini’s depiction of Hell and ascension was fascinating to read and  definitely made me think. It was nice to see that characters from any religion could make it into Heaven, really outlining the idea the importance of people’s good deeds in life and not their core beliefs. It was also refreshing to read of people who ascended to Heaven after they spent time in Purgatory or Hell, that where you end up in death doesn’t have to be the eternal. All of these things, while appearing in a work of fiction, are definitely interesting food for thought.

I believe my favorite part of this story was meeting all the various characters that appeared in Heph’s journey. You meet Vikings, Jews, Celts, old Christian abbots, characters from fallen empires, and characters who predate the Egyptians. The minor characters were always fun to read and interesting to read about, especially the female characters. Out of the entire cast of characters, almost all of the female characters that were mentioned were totally over-powered and badass in their own way, with magic, great weaponry, and fantastical tools. I can’t really tell you who my favorite character was without giving any spoilers, but they’re all pretty fantastic and they each had an interesting role to play in the story and Heph’s overall journey through Hell.

Heph’s journey through the story was rather interesting to read, even though his main goal seems to be doomed to fail, even from the start. It was a rather bumpy ride from start to finish, mostly because our Hero has decided to take on a nearly impossible task and everyone keeps telling him that he won’t succeed. Almost everyone he meets tries to persuade him to move on from his love for Alexander, to dissuade him from descending into Hell to find him, but they always help him out in some way. I find that to be rather interesting, because in most books those kinds of characters only serve one purpose and it’s to distract the Hero from their journey. However, most of these characters in Trampling in the Land of Woe are also Heph’s greatest allies and friends, helping him in whatever way they could. Heph’s journey into the deepest parts of Hell was interesting to read because of the characters he met, the people who helped or opposed him, and the wonderfully imaginative depictions of the Rings of Hell. Heph’s personal odyssey to find Alexander the Great was one that I had mixed feelings about, and I’m still not sure whether I cared for it. His travels were rather exciting and wonderful to read, especially with the author’s unique voice and descriptions. However, there was so much build up, build up, build up that when you think you got to the final conflict and it’s over within a few pages, you’re suffering from whiplash, and there’s still more to read. All of the last twenty pages pretty much left me feeling unsettled, which may or may not have been the author’s purpose.

While the resolution of the story was unsettling and still leaving me to wonder how I actually feel about it, I still liked reading about the progress that Heph’s character made. It was interesting to see how his character transformed from being single-mindedly driven to thinking beyond his love and loyalty to Alexander. And while I couldn’t really connect with Hespaestion, his overall character journey was nice to read about.

Final Thoughts:

As my first queer fiction, I enjoyed it and felt that it was rather tame. Overall there’s no romance in this story, just in the flashbacks that Hespaestion has to when he was alive. Those memories were actually rather sweet, for the most part, and I really enjoyed reading about their loving actions and adventures. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, who like me, wants to broaden their shelves and read something out of the norm for them. It is rather tame in the queer romance, so I believe can serve as a nice stepping stone into harder queer fiction.

The story is rather gory in some places, and I actually squirmed at some of the descriptions. This may be a turn off for some readers, while other may like it. For those sensitive to gore, I would definitely not try to read this before bed if you decide to give this book a try. For those who love gore, this book probably won’t phase you and may prove to be rather fun.

This book is a fantastic read for anyone who wants to get into the Halloween mood. There’s hideous monsters, torture, and grotesque scenes that all really fit with the Hell scenery.

I would also recommend this book to anyone who wants a good, imaginative story. The author’s imagination is spectacular and his writing ability really helps flesh out that imagination. The characters are very unique and come from all walks of life, lending interesting advise and beautiful quotes. Really, this could be a great read for anyone that isn’t squeamish about gore or queer main characters.

Rating:

4/5

Overall this story was fantastic. I loved reading the book, for the most part, and enjoyed all of the minor characters, and the work and creativity that went with it. Galaini had a wonderful writing style and his descriptions of everything were breath taking, making it easy for my brain to paint the story. I would have given Trampling in the Land of Woe full marks, but the conclusion left me unsettled and I just couldn’t relate to Hespaestion. Some of the minor characters I really liked and I related to them more, but their time in the story was too brief for my taste. However, I feel like this story was still pretty good and was definitely not your typical Hero’s Journey. I think I’ll be sticking around and seeing what other books in this series will bring.

A Curse of Ash & Iron

A Curse of Ash and Iron

*This is a picture of the book cover and the photo does not belong to me, but the author.

Details:

Title: A Curse of Ash & Iron

Author: Christine Norris

Publisher: Curiosity Quill Press

Release Date: May 21st 2015 (first published September 2nd 2014)

Genre: Science Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling

Pages: 288

Synopsis:

Benjamin Grimm knows the theater is much like real life. In 1876 Philadelphia, people play their parts, hiding behind the illusion of their lives, and never revealing their secrets.

When he reunites with his childhood friend Eleanor Banneker, he is delighted. His delight turns to dismay when he discovers she has been under a spell for the past 7 years, being forced to live as a servant in her own home, and he realizes how sinister some secrets can be. She asks for his help, and he can’t refuse. Even if he doesn’t believe in ‘real’ magic, he can’t abandon her.

Ellie has spent the long years since her mother’s death under the watchful eye and unforgiving eye of her stepmother. Bewitched and hidden in plain sight, it seems no one can help Ellie escape. Not even her own father, who is under a spell of his own. When she sees Ben one evening, it seems he is immune to the magic that binds her, and her hope is rekindled along with her friendship.

     But time is running short. If they do not find a way to break the spell before midnight on New Year’s Eve, then both Ellie and her father will be bound forever.

My First Thoughts:

Steampunk fascinates me. I love science fiction to begin with, but something about mixing old with the new and creating something totally different is amazing. The back reads like a fairytale, specifically like the Cinderella tale with different twists, which I’m excited to find out for myself.

Story Breakdown:

Eleanor Banneker, Ellie, is one of the main characters of this adventure. In this story, she is definitely the Cinderella, but she is nothing like the Disney Cinderella most girls are familiar with. Daughter of the social elite, she is stripped of her identity and the life she would have lived due to a spell that was cast upon her. For seven years she worked as the maid to the home in which she lived, doing her stepmother’s every biding while the world, including her father, forgot about her. Except for her childhood best friend: Ben.

Benjamin Grimm, no not the alter ego of the Thing from Fantastic Four, but a young man born into the lower working class of society, is the only one who can see through Ellie’s enchantment. During the working day, he works in either the bookstore that his mother owns or at the local theater as a simple stage hand. By night though, he tinkers in his shop making all sorts of wonderful designs meant to wow the audience with illusions, because one day he wants to leave Philadelphia and become a famous Illusionist. When he recognizes Ellie, it seems like fate was on her side and she decides to ask for his help to break the enchantments on her father and herself. Though Ben is more than willing to help his childhood friend, he doesn’t believe in all of the magic hoop-la that Ellie does and believes there is a more logical reason for her life’s misfortune. Could he be Ellie’s Prince Charming? Or is there another that plays that role in this story?

One role that is filled for sure is the evil stepmother, who is played by Olivia Banneker. The former governess of Ellie, Olivia has only wanted what was best for her daughter, Rebecca, and herself. When she marries Ellie’s father, she jumps feet first into the world of the social elite, trying so hard to fit in with the people she had once coveted. But how she obtained what she once coveted is a mystery, a mystery that could be explained by magic and secret meetings with an enigmatic stranger.

Then there is Rebecca, the younger stepsister to Ellie, who gets to live the life that Ellie had dreamed of as a child. The younger girl seems quiet and out of place in the world in which her mother so wants them to live in. But inside that quiet mind is a tinker and possibly something more.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

This book took me by surprise. I have read retellings before but this one is fantastic and cleverly written. Ellie is not your average Cinderella, she tackles her curse without the help of a fairy godmother. Instead, her best friend helps her not for money or love, but because of the friendship they had as children. It was wonderful to watch Ellie go from a young girl that just took what was given to her, to a young woman that took her life and problems into her own hands. Ellie was strong, but willing to ask for help and receive it, and she didn’t have a complete bitter and hateful attitude. Ellie had grace and knew when to lash out her fiery tongue.

Ben was a wonderful character. I loved reading about his illusionist projects and how they worked; it was definitely a fascinating read. He was so devoted to helping Ellie, and it was nice to watch his character grow as they worked together to break the curse. Some of the other characters, like Rebecca, surprised me and it was amazing to see how the author had written them into the story.

For a retelling, it didn’t really scream retelling to me while I read. There were some of the major themes that were taken from the original ideas, but other than that the author made it her own story, which is what you’re supposed to do. In fact, it was when I ran across these themes that I reminded myself that this was a Cinderella retelling! The steampunk tones were very well done as well. Some stories that are ‘steampunk’ want to drown the readers in it with all this extra detailing that might not actually be steampunk. In this story, the steampunk is very subtle; actually it’s easy to miss if you are unfamiliar with it.

Norris does a good job recreating this historical world and adding some of her own twists to it without disrupting the flow too much. I will admit, the story was a little slow in the beginning, but after the first few chapters it really picked up and the last hundred or so were a rollercoaster! The story had so many twists but a lot of clues as well, and the author actually left a lot of the mystery up to the reader to figure out before revealing things later on. It was refreshing actually being able to use my brain instead of having the author spoon feed me everything.

Final Thoughts:

If you love history and going back in time, this book may be for you. There’re some tidbits of history thrown in that aren’t common knowledge, but the author actually explains them at the back of the book. Also something rather interesting, the author actually named her characters, at least their first names, after some of her ancestors that she has found. In fact, she was related to a Benjamin that worked at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia.

If you like slow burn romance, or romance that kind of takes a back burner to the story, then you’ll enjoy this one. The love in this story is very slow, and unlike Disney and other stories, Ellie doesn’t jump into it all like a cannonball.

If you like your heroine to be strong, but not a bitch, then you’ll like Ellie. She takes on her problems and tries to fix them in whatever way she can. Ellie is clever and isn’t a crybaby that waits for Prince Charming to come rescue her. She is a woman conscious of her world and the environment around her, and she decides what she will do with her life.

Rating(s):

4.5/5

This was a fantastic book and very well written, definitely one of my favorites of late. The only thing keeping it from getting a full 5 out of 5 is the way the author would switch scenes or point of view between Ellie and Ben. Occasionally, Norris would stop in the beginning of an action or conversation that the reader never experiences later. Personally, I don’t like to end scenes with a loose piece of dialogue, but that’s just my preference. The other thing that hurt the rating was that the author kept every reveal secret until the last possible second, which is fine for the bigger reveals but it got a bit annoying for all the smaller revelations. I’m all for allowing the reader to think for themselves and try to figure it out on their own, but sometimes I want to know word for word what this letter said or who surprised them and such. But other than those, this book deserved every point it got because it was a fascinating Cinderella retelling with some magic and a bit of steampunk!

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