A machine made of wood and iron is tearing through the streets of Volterra after the city has already been under siege. The citizens are running for their lives from this mechanical menace. Leonardo da Vinci’s apprentice Isabel has to stop this robot that she’s put so much time and energy into.
The connection between Isabel and the machine has been an adorable friendship to watch over the course of Monstro Mechanica to date. This makes the events of this issue all the more tragic. We go from chaos in the streets to a gorgeous full-page spread that is as somber as it is heartbreaking. It is presented without dialogue as the image speaks volumes. Artist Chris Evenhuis captures so much emotion in this shot.
The strength of Monstro Mechanica comes in the powerful team-up of Evenhuis’ gorgeous artwork with writer Paul Allor’s characters. The machine is the perfect example of this. On the surface, this is a soulless robot that doesn’t even have a face. It expresses itself only with its movements and gestures, yet its plight in this issue is harrowing. You really care for this being of nuts and bolts and its never said a single word.
While the development with the machine is a major factor in Monstro Mechanica #4, there is much more going on here. There are some cool pieces of conspiracy and espionage, but I’m less invested in these. It’s just that Isabel, the machine, and to a surprisingly lesser extent, da Vinci, are so much more interesting. I’m more attached to them than this greater government coup that seems to be going on. Obviously, this will eventually affect them so it’s still important. It’s just that the book lost some of its momentum when it shifted to focus on these other characters.
One exception to this is Riario, the man Isabel freed from prison in Volterra. He is proving to be a slimy villain armed with blades as well as a great sense of humor. There’s a fun, yet bloody exchange he has in this issue that reflects his complete lack of regard for human life or regrets of any kind.
The injection of comic relief at key points throughout Monstro Mechanica adds some fun to it. It serves for a nice, quick laugh after a serious moment, before continuing on with the story. They’re like reset buttons, placed at perfect intervals.
Evenhuis elevates this humor with some fantastic facial expressions. He has mastered the careless look that often appears on da Vinci’s face, like the character could not be bothered to answer a silly question, let alone learn the name of the person asking it. This is matched by Isabel’s looks of disbelief at her boss when he makes some insane statement. Isabel reminds me of a character from Archer in these moments, which definitely brings a smile to my face.
Monstro Mechanica expands past its central cast with this issue, yet still holds true to its original concept of an inventor, his machine, and the woman who cares for it. This book is full of powerful character development and stellar artwork. It’s tailor made for any fan of this time period, however there’s a lot to love even if you don’t fit that category.