Story: M.M. Chen
Artists: Joe Benitez, Martin Montiel, Mike Garcia Benitez
Benitez Productions; 1st edition (January 1, 2015)
IMPERISHABLE PLEASURES I sometimes save for later as a refuge, to preserve somewhere beautiful to go. Some books I can’t help it, I leave partly unread to wait for me there like a ripening fruit, making me the fruit really, the only one in the room juicing up to savor, in this case, LADY MECHANIKA in a previous incarnation.
When Image Comics started republishing Lady Mechanika stories last year, I turned to my trove, assiduously collected since I discovered her, not in her rare debut issues from 2010, but in the continuation by her artist creator Joe Benitez from 2015 under his own label. I collected everything, yet left all but the first story unread. Now I retrieved the second story in the original series to read fresh, The Tablet of Destinies, a six-issue set from 2018 printed in a nice hardbound edition that spills out landscapes of incredible jewels.
I was just ripe. I tenderly turned each page wondering how mere paper and ink could be seduced into something as fine as this. Shared pencils by Joe Benitez and Martin Montiel, and colors by Mike Garcia maintain the original sepia-tinted steampunk mood of Lady Mechanika with exquisite illustrations sometimes achingly inviting. The page lies open, mouth curled in an Oh! adoring it.
Equally important, author M.M. Chen delivers the same majestic character that lured me from the beginning to follow this queer woman with mechanical appendages (that remain almost always hidden). She is calm, sensible, polite, and compassionate, as well as intrepid.
My favorite part in this set occurs some distance after Lady Mechanika is dropped from the air in the Sahara Desert on the way to find a professor friend who has disappeared during an expedition in Africa, accompanied by the professor’s pint-sized granddaughter and a jungle girl rescued from slavers. The kind act makes her welcome among a band of female warriors that come to dispatch the slavers and retrieve the little girl; and in only a few pages we see magnificent Lady Mechanika traipsing through a lush jungle beside a magnificent jungle chieftainess, equally self-possessed, who explains there are no men among them, because “Men have no honor.”
The wilderness plots, inventive gadgets, and surprisingly wily foes in this Lady Mechanika episode feed the imagination from beginning to end. Yet one thing you cannot do is look into her eyes to assess the depths of her soul and weight of her experiences, because her eyes like her appendages are mechanical. Without her rose-tinted shades in public, Lady Mechanika has a blank demon stare, and her sex appeal if not her abundant charm vanishes.
Whitewashed reality chips away in both her disguise and the disguise of her enemies as we move to the final event. Yet at last we depart in a fabulous gown corseted to the throat, draped in white furs, sheltered under a broad bonnet adorned with roses on a street in London, fresh on the heels of a mystery, and happy farewells. Many thanks my dear.