As a long-time fan of Blade Runner-esque dystopian sci-fi, the premise behind writer/artist/letterer/colorist Raffaele Ienco’s new Top Cow/Image series Mechanism sounded right up my alley — sometime in the not-too-terribly-distant future, a reptilian race of flesh-eaters referred to by the besieged populace of Earth as “Geckos” have descended upon us from above with a view toward turning the planet into their personal larder, and in response such humans as still remain have constructed a shit-ton of militarized robots to fight off the marauding lizard-men. Results have been decidedly mixed, however, and now a new “leaner, meaner” — and hopefully smarter — prototype has been sent into the field well before it’s probably ready, and it’s up to a pair of cops who well and truly don’t seem to like each other very much to show their new mechanical “pal” the ropes while it just sits (or stands) there, quietly and creepily observing everything until its programming tells it that it’s good and ready for action. The problem is, when it finally does get off its tin-plated ass, it’s going to be too late for either one or both of the “future cops,” or for the determined urban scavenger they’ve found wandering through one of those “unauthorized zones” we’re apparently going to be seeing any number of down the road according to one post-apocalyptic would-be epic after another. And then, of course, we’ll be confronted with the even larger existential dilemma of which poses the greater threat — the Geckos themselves, or the robots ostensibly meant to “save” us from them? Who watches the Watch-bots?
Ienco’s lush, fluid art — complete with its distinctive “digitally painted” coloring — has been consistently impressive over in the pages of fellow Top Cow stablemate (ha! Get it?) Symmetry, but whereas that book both benefits and suffers from writer Matt Hawkins’ propensity to ask “big questions” at the expense, at times, of his own narrative, here it’s a solo show all the way, and so far the results are encouraging, at the least, if not quite altogether impressive. Much of the dialogue, particularly between our mutually-antagonistic cops, is cliched and ineffective, it has to be said, but the internal politics of both the police department and the corporate lab where the titular Mechanism is being rushed into service seem damn intriguing, and while the mechanics (pun only slightly intended, I promise) of the scripting can hopefully be improved on over time, there’s no going back and swapping out good core concepts for shit ones once the train has left its station, and the core concepts in this book are very good indeed.
Who are we kidding, though? The art’s the real star of the show here, and I’m more than pleased to report that our guy Raff is pulling out all the stops when it comes to delivering a borderline-breathtaking visual experience. His style may be a bit too “computerized” for some tastes, I freely admit, but underneath that SFX-heavy digitized palette —which actually serves to embellish the storyline quite well given its setting and subject matter — is high-quality pencil-and-ink work that you simply can’t fake. Even if the script absolutely sucked — which, again and for the record, is hardly the case — this book might be worth your $3.99 for the art alone.
All in all, then, I’m reasonably optimistic about the future of this — uhhmmm — horrific, nightmarish future. I have some concerns as to whether or not Ienco can keep up with two titles, sure, especially since he’s wearing all of the various creative “hats” on this one, but hopefully they’ve scheduled the now-customary breaks between story arcs for each in such a way that a lull in the publication of one will afford him the opportunity to concentrate more fully on the other. And vice-versa, of course. He’s got a lot on his plate, no question about it, but so far it seems like he can handle the heavy load not just fine, but really well. I strongly recommend giving Mechanism a look.