In ENGINEWARD #1, scavenger Ichabod finds what he thinks is a fossilised head. When his friend Joss plugs it into the power network, it comes alive, pointing to a survival from when mankind fled a dying Earth. But the Celestials, who rule with an iron fist, may want this head for themselves. What happens next? Find out in your next mighty Major Spoilers review!
Writer: George Mann
Artist: Joe Eisma
Colorist: Michael Garland
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhadu
Editor: Adrian F Wassel
Publisher: Vault Comics
Release Date: July 15th, 2020
Previously in ENGINEWARD: Oert is an ancient myth, a fabled long lost planet where mankind first originated, then fled as it convulsed in its dying spasms. Spread across the stars, mankind struggles to survive, as we see on one benighted planet ruled by the greed of the Celestials!
There are two ways to world build. One, you dump everything on the head of the reader and expect them to sink or swim. It doesn’t happen that much these days, thankfully, but when it days, don’t expect readers to come back. Then there’s the second way, which is what ENGINEWARD #1 does very elegantly. Writer George Mann carefully doles out the information in this first issue, allowing the reader to get comfortable with the setting, while laying out a number of mysteries along the way that will build momentum as the series progresses. The use of a framing device (utilising a separate color to distinguish it from the dialogue) goes a long way to setting out the background detail – basically, humanity poisoned good old planet Earth, and those remaining sent out generation ships to seed planets in the hope humanity would continue on. This is an old trope (see Stephen Baxter’s Flood duology or Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora book for excellent examples) that is utilised well here.
Mann also builds his world in other ways, from conversations between characters talking about the chronic water shortage, to then seguining to the Celestials compound where the leader, Armuth, lolls in a pool with his harem of men and women. Clearly, those in charge (who’ve adopted a Zodiac contrivance) don’t care for the fate of the common man, as long as they continue to obey (and provide people for the harem). Elsewhere, we see examples of the technology, such as Kreek, a ghoulem (robot to you and I) who personality wise, is a pleasingly amusing blend of C-3PO and Marvin the Paranoid Android.
All this world building is useful because I feel that in future issues, what exactly happened to humanity, and why this corner of the galaxy is ruled by a group of greedy rulers, will play a large part. Overthrowing the dictators is another trope in science fiction, and while there is definitely a ‘been there and done that’ feel to ENGINEWARD #1 in that regard, the pleasure in reading something like this is that after all the travails of our heroes, tearing down the edifice constructed by a bunch of greedy bullies is always satisfying.
The cast of characters is as you’d expect – eager young things vaguely aware that everything isn’t as good as it could be, but not aware how much danger they’re getting themselves in pursuing their interests. Hunky Ichabod and engineward Joss are clearly the power couple of the series, but around them are arrayed an interesting group of characters, from the aforementioned Kreek, to the duumvirate who rule the planet, Armuth (note the number inscribed on his chest while he’s pleasing himself with his harem) and his rather more switched on sister, Mendea.
PAINT BY NUMBERS
Artist Joe Eisma and colorist Michael Garland do very good work in ENGINEWARD #1. The story and setting provides them with a vast array of characters and creatures to bring to life. Costumes, creatures, buildings, vehicles all have to be crafted from the ground up – there’s a sense that they want to draw the audience in with a sort of familiar world, but with enough distinct features to convey the future setting. Overall it’s a very fine artistic effort throughout ENGINEWARD #1 and as the series expands, there’s capacity for even more interesting locales and creatures to create.
BOTTOM LINE: FAMILIAR, BUT ENTERTAINING
ENGINEWARD #1 is another in a long line of dystopian adventures where a plucky band of heroes goes up against the established hordes of an oppressive dictatorship. That said, Mann and the art crew have created something distinctive here, with interesting visuals and a world that has its own language, history and culture which brings what otherwise might be staid to a higher level. Interesting and entertaining, ENGINEWARD #1 is a really strong opening issue.
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