Guest Writer: Stonie Williams
Writer – Paul Allor
Artist – Chris Evenhuis
Colorist Sjan Weijers
This was brought to you by the gift of a review copy, QWERTY and rolling natural 20s.
“Ah, Leonardo. What will you do with there’s no more need for your war machines?”
“Well… I do also paint.”
It’s Florence, 1472. Leonardo da Vinci finds himself in the middle of two forces vying for supremacy of the city. One hand side is the powerful Medici’s. On the other side is the Catholic church headed by Pope Sixtus. Both sides want da Vinci and his inventions to help tip the balance between them. Leonardo had a working relationship with the Medici’s, but the Pope wasn’t going to let that get in his way.
One night after working in the city morgue, agents of the Pope kidnap Leonardo. Luckily for Leonardo, Isabel was nearby. Isabel is Leonardo’s apprentice. A smart, clever woman marked as unconventional, at best. Isabel rushes to aid Leonardo with the help of one of Leonardo’s inventions – a wooden robot.
Monstro Mechanica takes us on a rush of a political thriller. Leonardo has a dry, sharp wit. He reminds me of Hugh Laurie’s House or Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes. He’s the smartest man in the room and he knows it. Isabel is a strong-willed, vibrant character. She gives a bit of humanity to balance Leonardo’s air of superiority. Leonardo sees the robot as another machine. Isabel sees the potential for some sort of artificial life.
I hate to use the term Steampunk for this story. Steampunk is set in the Victorian era and this is the Renaissance. But Monstro Mechanica borrows some elements and aesthetics from the Steampunk genre. Allor puts them to good use.
Paul Allor is an amazing writer and creator and this book is a prime example of what he’s capable. He takes liberties with the history, of course, but it’s grounded in the world. You get enough history to make it all seem believable. His character has distinct voices very early on. It helps that, in general, we all know who da Vinci is. There’s not much backstory that’s needed for him in the first issue.
I love Chris Evenhuis artwork through this. It hits all the marks for me. Characters become expressive actors. Details of the world around them put you inside the world with them. He gives the world a very cinematic feel. If it’s not picked up for a TV show at some point then the world will be sadder for it. It feels like a mix of Reign and Marco Polo. Definitely Netflix material. Side note, I loved the hairstyle he went with! Very cool detail.
Sjan Weijers’ colors pairs well with Evenhuis art. Not only in the palette, she used, through the earth tones she used were splendid for the era and setting. But what stood out to me was the lighting she used for different locations and rooms. It lent well to the cinematic feel of the book. When character moved through locations, you felt it. Enclosed rooms lit with candlelight held the mood of that room.
This book was a solid read and definitely left me wanting the next issue. It’s a political, alternative history thriller. So while not geared towards children, there was nothing in this that would keep it out of their hands. I’d recommend this book for anyone, especially fans of alternative and fictional period stories. Until next time, happy reading!