Alternate history is a genre on the rise with tales of the daring adventures of figures such as Nikola Tesla and Edgar Allan Poe causing us to see them in new light. With Monstro Mechanica, it’s Leonardo da Vinci’s turn. We know of his paintings and a number of his inventions, but what about his wooden robot? His mind is a powerful tool that different groups are fighting over. They want him to create weapons for them. Fortunately for the inventor, he has a young apprentice named Isabel and a big robot to keep him safe…and the world safe from him.
The first thing I noticed with Monstro Mechanica is Chris Evenhuis‘ incredible artwork. It is absolutely stunning with clear, crisp lines. His characters are full of life and the settings are rife with detail. Sjan Weijers‘ colors create a vibrant palette even for the scenes set in the evening that really makes the people pop off the page.
We don’t get a lot of backstory on Leonardo or his apprentice, however it’s not needed. This isn’t just because he’s a major figure in history. It’s because we get an immediate sense of each character based on their facial expressions and how they interact with one another. Leonardo looks almost bored in casual conversation, as if his mind is already six steps ahead. He’s brilliant and he knows it. Meanwhile, Isabel is young and earnest. She’s clever and determined. She is the real star of this book.
There’s a definite Sherlock Holmes vibe to Leonardo, particularly with how he interacts with other people. He guides conversations as he knows how they’re all going to end up. This could be his downfall because he expects everyone to do what he says because he’s the smartest guy in the room. This is where Isabel plays and it’s already proving to be very interesting. Writer Paul Allor’s characterization is on point.
Isabel is close with the robot. It’s like a pet and a constant companion. Leonardo has some strict rules about how to use the creation, but Isabel doesn’t follow them exactly. It creates a number of possibilities, especially since Leonardo walks a very fine line between good and evil. I don’t mean that in the mustache-twirling sense. He has the capability to do great things, but he could also be responsible for heinous acts of violence. We see both sides on display in this issue. Isabel serves as a moral compass of sorts, keeping him in check with the robot.
The design for the mechanical creation is simple and elegant. It has no facial features and does not emote in any way. It’s a blank slate. I’m curious if that will change over the course of the series.
Monstro Mechanica has something for everyone. There’s action, excitement, intrigue, and a cool robot. That’s a recipe for some fun comics.