The big news is that the Lady Mechanika story has moved to Image Comics, which will be publishing a new story arc beginning in September. If you haven’t yet met Lady Mechanika and not sure about reading her adventures, you can snag your introductory copy at Free Comic Book Day 2021. The yearly event is traditionally held the first Saturday in May but, because of the ongoing pandemonium of the pandemic, has been moved to August this year.
Joe Benitez created a wondrously inspired but tragic heroine first introduced in 2010, and in 2011 she graced the cover of Worlds of Aspen for Free Comic Book Day in an excerpt from The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse. Lady M’s closeup really begins with issue No. 0 featuring the prequel chapter, “The Demon of Satan’s Alley.” A full moon in September of 1878 (Harry Houdini turned 4 that year) lights the path to her first scuffle with an unfortunate creature displaying a mechanical leg. Their brief interaction establishes the facts of her raison d’etre: she has no knowledge of her past prior to her escape from the Ministry of Health in—think fiction—Mechanika City, England, aka the City of Tomorrow, in which she resides.
Despite leaving her mechanical arms and legs mostly hidden in exquisite Victorian fashion, Benitez draws Lady M’s every pose to accentuate her sexual attraction. But her disposition throughout is reminiscent of Betty Boop’s: both treat their sexuality as matter of fact and beside the point. Lady Mechanika is a beautiful young woman who loves detective work, even as it oftentimes leads her into the paranormal, and pursues a burning desire to solve the secret of her own origin.
The steampunk world she inhabits seemingly bleeds off the pages with Peter Steigerwald and Beth Sotelo’s colors of gun metal and gold rendered vividly alongside the muted Victorian palette of greens and browns. Benitez has an affinity for interrupting his story panels with intricately constructed frames for Lady M, with the later comics highlighting the gears and cogs bordering on every other page. The cumulative effect pulls you into that world and keeps you there, turning the pages in suspense. The spreads are just splendid to look at, and the stories are served up sober, with the dialogues sharp and revealing. Occasionally, a case Lady Mechanika is investigating will drop clues to her own personal mystery, which she duly catalogues.
Lady Mechanika’s limbs gives her superior strength, and she doesn’t shy from a fight. All the stories are rated Teen and the illustrated violence can be both gory and graphic. Benitez rightly warns away the faint of heart and readers who are not entertained by depictions of blood everywhere. But these pictures are not encountered often and are a necessary part of the narratives that weave elements of Victorian Era horror and intense fight scenes with the scientific inventions, magic, and folklore that characterizes this steampunk world.
In addition to Lady Mechanika, you will make the acquaintance of a few recurring characters, primarily Archibald Lewis, Lady M’s friend and a former employee at the mysterious company known as Blackpool, and Inspector Singh, who could be a love interest for Lady Mechanika. Alexandra “Allie” Littleton and Miss Winifred are two young girls whose conversations with Lady M go a long way towards displaying her fair minded and protective instincts towards those she holds dear.
If it’s delight at first site for you and Ms. Mechanika, then don’t wait till August to embrace her. Just read the entire series this summer and be all caught up when the new publication is released. All story arcs have been compiled to date into six volumes and the special volume, La Dama De La Muerte, that is best read between volumes 3 and 4. Here is the sequence:
Vol. 1: The Mystery Of The Mechanical Corpse (comics #0-5, 160 pages)
Vol. 2: The Tablet Of Destinies (comics #1-6, 160 pages)
Vol. 3: The Lost Boys Of West Abbey (comics #1-2, 64 pages)
La Dama De La Muerte (comics #1-3, 88 pages)
Vol. 4: The Clockwork Assassin (comics #1-3, 88 pages)
Vol. 5: La Belle Dame Sans Merci (comics #1-3 plus “Two” from FCBD 2018, 104 pages)
Vol. 6: Sangre (comics #1-5, 144 pages)
You can read all these on Hoopla, the digital media service of choice for many comics and graphic novels. Or own the volumes outright by getting them from Benitez himself on his website, Benitez Productions. Don’t forget to stop in at your friendly local comic shop on Saturday, August 14, for your free comic of Lady Mechanika and a sneak peek of the next installment called The Monster of the Ministry of Hell-th. Find your local FCBD participating shop here.