By Paul Allor, Chris Evenhuis, and Sjan Weijers
Leonardo Da Vinci, remember him? Well, when you think Da Vinci, you probably don’t think of him as a monster-building, war-profiting genius, but in the new comic series Monstro Mechanica from Aftershock sure does. This new ongoing series from writer Paul Allor and artist Chris Evenhuis dives into papal espionage mixed with crazy robot engineering. Poor Da Vinci, he just wants to create and draw in peace, but the wars going on around Europe keep bringing him in. We see him evade mercenaries sent from the papal states and hold his own when confronting associates of the pope, all while having a female apprentice, which was super controversial at the time. There is a constant underlying story throughout the issue about a robot that Da Vinci and his apprentice, Isabel, have built; this does give this semi-realistic book a science fiction feel, making this almost historically accurate story seem a little outrageous.
Writer Allor is really channeling some Frankenstein Mary Shelley vibes with his comic rendition of good old Leo Da Vinci with this story. The robot that he and his apprentice create has a lot of complexity, setting up a major arc and character development from the nurturing Isabel to the non-emotional icy demeanor of Da Vinci. The robot is a typical combat ready warrior machine, who under the wrong hands could change the course of any war during this time period. Da Vinci wants to keep the creation under wraps so it does not fall into the wrong hands. This whole dynamic feels somewhat original, but does it create enough interest coupled with the political intrigue and papal warfare to draw an audience? With a book set in this era, it almost feels too comical to put this scenario in the same pages with papal hired mercenaries; you can believe the church would hire people to kill and coerce others, but a man made robot out of wood is ludicrous.
The art in this pages is simple enough, no real emotion or creativity to set this book apart from any other one on the shelves. There is a richness in the colors from Weijers that seem worth mentioning as they seem to provide some aspect to the pages, but there is not really any noteworthy art provided from Evenhuis. Even the colors feel repetitive after some time; how many shades of brown are there but in one panel there are two people and a catapult all colored with the same shade? It honestly feels like the art overall was a little phoned in and missing little details throughout the pages. The only redeeming quality is just some clever panel and page arranging. There are just so many missed opportunities throughout this book artistically with character design, facial expression, and overall detail. The characters have little energy or movement associated with them, apart from one chase sequence involving Isabel and a member of the Assassin’s guild.
Monstro Mechanica #1 overall is a historical comic crossing into the sci-fi genre with some of the larger recycled themes other works of literature have used. The first issue does leave a lot of room for improvement, with a story that feels anchored in historical accuracy following Leonardo Da Vinci around as he rubs elbows with political figures and member of the church. There is something intriguing about this time period that could make a good comic. However, when the book started to go down the sci-fi rabbit hole, involving robots with sentience, it has to be done right or it will discredit the entire book and lose its readers. When a book does not enthrall you completely with its story in the first issue, a book with fantastic art can always bring a fan back for the second issue. Sadly, this is not the case with here, where the story was not a home run and the art not even considered a base hit. It wouldn’t be so disappointing if only the story premise wasn’t so intriguing to begin with and the creators were not so talented. They have the capacity to do more and we can hope they bring it in the next issue.