Okay, so tomorrow’s the big day, and despite being massively “under the gun” time-wise, I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about The Steam Man #1 from Dark Horse Comics just in case there are a few (or, heck, even one) of you out there looking for a good new horror comic to pick up at your LCS in honor of Halloween.
Although, in all honesty, it may not be fair to label this as purely a horror series since there are so many sci-fi influences added into the mix, particularly and most obviously of the “steampunk” variety. After all, the premise here is that an intrepid crew of five are “piloting” a gigantic steam-powered robot through the (unpaved) highways and byways of the Old West looking for trouble, so it’s more than fair to say that what we’ve got on our hands here is something of a genre mash-up.
If that sounds appealing to you — as well it should — then name-dropping the creators involved in this five-issue series should only whet your appetite even further. Joe R, Lansdale has made a career out of the “horror western” in both novels and comics (who can forget his classic Jonah Hex stories with Timothy Truman and Sam Glanzman published under the Vertigo imprint?) and he gets credit for coming up with the story here (what we used to call “plotting” back in the day), while scripting and dialogue are handled by consummate pro Mark Alan Miller (whose name you’ve probably seen attached to any number of Boom! Studios’ Clive Barker adaptations and spin-offs), and the pencils and inks are the domain of the singularly talented Piotr Kowalski, who’s best known for his work on Image Comics’ Sex with Joe Casey but has also lent his detailed and unique abilities to last year’s Marvel Knights : Hulk and Dynamite’s Peter Milligan-scripted Terminal Hero, among other noteworthy recent endeavors. This guy gets a lot of work, and as the art samples included with this review ably demonstrate, it’s very easy to see why : he just plain brings it. Colorist-on-the-rise Kelly Fitzpatrick, who’s been popping up in all the right places lately (such as Dark Horse’s awesome reality-warping Neverboy and Dark Circle’s gritty new urbanized take on The Black Hood) rounds out the “A-list” of talent attached to this project, and if all these folks working on the same comic isn’t enough to get your “must buy this now!” juices flowing, well — you must be one tough person to please.
Classic sci-fi elements make their presence felt in the proceedings here, as well, with the Steam Man itself originally having been created to fend off H.G. Wells’ invasion from Mars, but when bacteria took care of that problem, it was quickly re-purposed for battle against marauding albino apes — another premise that I’m betting sounds pretty familiar to most readers out there. With those high-profile missions out of the way, though our monster-hunting crew are going about the business of taking their gigantic toy out into the wilds to tussle with a bad-ass uber-vampire who has designs on ushering in the apocalypse. Sounds like fun!
The characterization in this book is incredibly solid, with each member of the cast coming across as utterly unique individuals in the space of a few sentences of dialogue; the plot is meticulously well-constructed and incremental; and the art — well, I’ve gushed plenty about that already, but there’s no harm in doing so again since Kowalski’s renderings really are a feast for the eyes. Just look, dammit!
So, hey, there you have it — The Steam Man #1 hit comic shop shelves last week, so if you’re looking for something both familiar and different to scratch your horror comics itch this Halloween, pick this up and get in on what promises to be a fun, creepy, wild ride that we’re being guided along by a collection of undeniable masters of the medium.