The Steampunk Empire

The Crossroads of the Aether

Greetings steampunk and comic book enthusiasts!  I come to you today to pose a question:


Has anyone had the opportunity to read Joe Benitez'/Aspen Comics' "Lady Mechanika"?  And if so, what have you thought of it, both as a steampunk story and as a story of a strong female character?


I ask because I picked up issue #3 the other day (it's a small comic shop, they didn't have any of the back issues but I just couldn't resist a cover featuring a steampunk, gun-wielding heroine that opens to a gorgeous steampunk circus -- I ask you, who could?) and I'm a little torn as to whether or not I should pick up the two back issues and keep on with the story or not.


Warning: Spoilers Ahoy!




On the one hand:

-The art is gorgeous and the steampunk flavor appeals to me to no end.  That and the circus; my affinity for Dick Grayson has left me with a soft spot for circuses and I can only hope that, since they're embroiled in the plot too, the performers of the Cirque du Romani make more appearances in future issues.

-It's always nice seeing strong female characters in comics that can be sexy by their own merits and not because they're half-naked and drawn to look like they're posing for Maxim in every other panel.

-The basic plot really is intriguing -- I admit I have a soft spot for angst-ridden backstories that turn the subject into a badass -- and I'm interested in seeing where Mechanika's search for the truth takes her and finding out just what it was that happened to her in the past and why.  And, I'll be honest, it's a different and interesting enough take on the story that I didn't even realize until I started typing this up right now how similar it is in concept to Wolverine's origin story.

-Near as I can tell, Aspen Comics gives comic book artists and writers the opportunity to develop and own their own stories, giving them quite a bit of artistic freedom, which appeals not only to the wannabe author in me, but the part that is also mostly aware that most of the Suck coming out of DC's New 52 titles are coming from the editorial level and not, usually, the writers/artists (which isn't to say the writers/artists are entirely blameless).


But, on the other hand:

-The writing, at times, lacks a subtlety that I usually prefer; mostly in reference to the steampunk genre.  Most of the time it feels like Benitez is ham-fistedly pandering to the steampunk fanbase ("Welcome to Mechanicon!!!" characters cosplaying as other characters for said Mechanicon, another character going on about how he was into mechanics and Mechanicon before it was cool) and while I don't doubt that this is done out of love (this is clearly a man who has been to his fair share of comic conventions and seen the steampunk genre grow in popularity over the years), it can get tiresome and a bit irritating, taking you out of what is otherwise an interesting story.  There's also a wordplay joke at the end of the issue that goes on for far too long.

-A mostly minor irritant, but it also felt like there were too many false endings near the end of the issue; it was like the "Return of the King" movie all over again.  There'd be a big closing line!  And then you'd turn the page and there was more and it happened about three times.

-I've come to expect, as sad as it is, the strong female characters in comics to be screwed over eventually, which I guess is a major reason I'm hesitant to keep going with the series.

-It upsets me that they asked Kenneth Rocafort, the artist involved with the controversial "Red Hood and the Outlaws" comic, to do a cover for issue #4.  And, unsurprisingly, it features a hypersexualized Lady Mechanika with a dress slit up to her hip, a neckline down to her navel, and Rob Leifeld-style proportions in a Playboy centerfold pose. Now compare that to the covered up, yet still sexy and, shockingly, dignified cover Benitez drew and maybe you can see why I'm torn about the series.  Benitez seems to be aware of and trying to rectify the issues plaguing female comic book characters, but if he's involving people like Rocafort even to just do some guest promotional art, how sure can we be that he'll stick to his guns in the main story?

 ... wow that turned into a far longer screed than I expected it to.

Anyway, I'd appreciate any reviews, thoughts, and feelings on the series!

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Hmmm...Wally H., is that a French beret you are wearing in your portrait? lol

deedee gauzot :-P

Hello! T.H.Cox...

Has anyone had the opportunity to read Joe Benitez'/Aspen Comics' "Lady Mechanika"?  And if so, what have you thought of it, both as a steampunk story and as a story of a strong female character?

In respond to your first question my answer is nope!...Because I just recently, discovered artist Joe Benitez and his "Lady Mechanika" series. Therefore, I'm unable to respond to your second question. Now, with that being said, I'm in the process Of looking at his creation here:[The Second In a Series...Looking at the artwork Of Joe Benitez...]

Thanks, for your question...deedee gauzot ;-D

Mr. Cox,

Have not read this graphic pamphlet, yet it is on the list. Your review is very thorough, and reflects some of my initial reservations of how the barely covered female is rendered in a provocative manner that appears to be merely to unduly exploit without any supporting substance. If you have not espied it here, there is a group created from personal proclivities toward graphical albums, folios, or pamphlets that is intended for like-minded admirers to share in these pictorial/textual serial or singular productions, that may to a certain degree render elements often included in steampunk, or otherwise be related for peculiar qualities admired. As your estimation here was considerate, if you should wish, the following is a extended offer leading to the Society for the Appreciation of Graphical Albums (S.A.G.A.):


Noah Meernaum

Mr. Meernaum,

I had not, as of yet, come across this group in my meager explorations of the Empire which greatly surprises me as it is so relevant to my interests.  Thus, I shall take you up on your kind invitation

With Many Thanks,

T.H. Cox

i have them all from #0 to #3...i hate that they only come out maaaybe once a month, does make the story a little slow in keeping up with the pace, but it is a great read if you start from the beginning. If you jump in, it does seem like a bunch of steampunk eyecandy, but fantastically so! The artwork IS Absofreakinlutely amazing, but there are details to the story and lovely bits that are worth keeping up if you can find them all. 

i hope you find you enjoy them. i do! 

Thanks a lot!  Nice to hear from someone else whose read the series.  I think I've pretty much decided to keep on with it, the story's just too intriguing and art too gorgeous not to, I'm just having trouble finding the back issues at this point without buying directly from the website.

Actually I'd forgotten that I'd even ordered them through my comic book shop before you replied, so thanks again!  I'll have to ask them about that when I pick up Batman Beyond this weekend.

You're welcome! yah, i'm on a notification list at my local comic shop's always the greatest day when it comes in and then i'm sad again because i know the wait is long shortly thereafter said read...

Aspen Comics has a lot of great artists, but this is by far my favourite!

Good luck in your search!


I've enjoyed your review, and now I'm going to have to see about getting copies for myself.

I share your concern over whether the heroine will get dragged down into banal sexualized icon. I sincerely hope she doesn't, and that the whole guest artist thing is just a stunt to try to increase readership.

Sadly, especially in comics and manga, it can be a real struggle to find a series that doesn't either supersede the female lead with a male one as the plot progresses, or undermine the strength of the female character. It sounds like the author of Lady Mechanika wouldn't do something to destroy his character, so I'll remain hopeful.

I too have the whole collection... all three of them to date. But like Rouge Fire I agree it is a great read and the art is fantastic! So IF you can find them snatch them up asap. Cause they are going to be hard to come by since they are put out so infrequently and not on a monthly basis but near as I can tell bi annual. Sad really but it is what it is. And it is worth the wait.


I read issue #0 yesterday and enjoyed it. I proceeded to procure issue #1 today but have yet to peruse it. I too plan to continue following it. 

definitely worth the wait!! right now, they're currently doing the whole Multi cover of the same issue tho....grrrr...equally brilliant covers but make with the story Joe!!! ya killin' me! 

I liked it. I didn't love it. Frustrated with the lack of steampunk comics a few friends of mine decided to make the steampunk story we never get to see. Would love to hear what you think, I know you can't give it a proper review because its not out yet but let me know what you think.

To answer your question: I would stick with it for the art alone, it is a gorgeous book. I can forgive bad art or bad writing, not both.

p.s. in all honesty I like the writing.


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