A young Mechanika learns that the Ministry of Health is a prison for her. Some young girls have left, but is there any hope of her escaping? Find out in Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell #3 from Image Comics!
LADY MECHANIKA: THE MONSTER OF THE MINISTRY OF HELL #3
Writer: Joe Benitez
Artist: Joe Benitez
Colorist: Beth Sotelo
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Publisher: Image Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 9, 2022
Previously in Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell #3: The story looks back on Mechanika’s early days at the Ministry of Health where she is institutionalized and experimented on. She meets Kat, another girl there, who sneaks into her cell and advises her on how to behave to be allowed to join the dormitory. She does so and meets the other residents, most of whom have some striking physical problems or malformations, but who are sweet and supportive to each other. Except for Kat, who is manipulative and perhaps even filled with delusions of grandeur…
NOT QUITE HUMAN ENOUGH
Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell #3 opens at the fair with Mechanika, Dr. Littleton, Allie, and Fred at the Freak Show. Dr. Littleton assures Allie that the person with a snake tail was created by costumes and prosthetics. Lady Mechanika is profoundly uncomfortable by the exploitative nature of the show. One of the attractions is a pig-man – exactly what it sounds like. When some customers laugh and make fun of him, Mechanika turns on them and scares them off. Then the Pig-Man turns on her for chasing off their customers; he could withstand their laughing because they would bring in money. And, as Mechanika belatedly realizes, what other options does he have in Victorian England? This is a profound commentary, but it is also another link to Mechanika’s youth.
At the Ministry of Health, young girls with grotesque deformities would periodically be put on display, in cages no less, so rich people could gawk at them and be entertained. Gawking, poking, prodding – and even being bought. Mechanika is not for sale, but a woman demands to buy her until she is distracted by Mum. Mrs. Cavendish thinks Mechanika is doing well there now, but the Deacon wants to increase her treatments because she is still not speaking, and they are running out of time.
Back in the dormitory, Kat continues to share her dream about escaping to America with Mechanika (known as Evie). In contrast, small, one-eyed Leelee tells her she is pretty, and her mechanical arm is pretty. Mechanika sees the Deacon and crushes her metal food bowl into a small sphere. Kat is fascinated and dumps the cleanup chore onto Leelee.
That night, Kat insists on showing Mechanika something and leads her through passages until they reach a locked door. Kat wants her to break the lock, crushing it like she did the bowl. It is only an attic, but it is an attic with a window to the outdoors. Kat continues talking about her fantasy of their escape, just the two of them, and she reveals that she has a plan that is almost ready to set in motion.
Later, Mechanika is cleaning with Leelee and Augusta, and they gently warn her to be careful of Kat, because she is not right in her head. They also found a pair of gloves that used to belong to Mum and thought they might be nice for Mechanika to put over her own hands. A few days later, Leelee is no longer there, and Mrs. Cavendish only tells the others that she was cured. That night, Kat sneaks out and overhears the Director talking about Evie, or as know her – Mechanika!
A SPOT OF BRIGHTNESS IN THE DARK
The Freak Show and indeed the girls at the Ministry of Health are delicately covered in Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell #3. The attitude of putting people on display for entertainment is very real for the time period, but by seeing it through the lens of Lady Mechanika, we get the point of view of someone who was exploited. I appreciate the fact that the depicted deformities are well into the realm of the fanciful, removed enough from reality that the book isn’t further exploiting real medical conditions.
The young Mechanika does not speak; at this age, she is like a feral child being rapidly forced into a semblance of civilization. Her thoughts are not even verbalized, and we must understand her through her facial expressions. We do understand them, and they are almost painfully clearly. We see her fear and mortification when she is put on display. Her terror when she sees Deacon Grin is palpable. The happiness she reveals when she recognizes Leelee’s kindness is genuinely sweet, made all the more horrible in the context of the little girl’s abrupt disappearance. She sees Kat’s attention as kindness still at this age, not understanding her manipulation, but through all of this, we observe the foundations that have gone into Lady Mechanika as a person.
BOTTOM LINE: A HEARTWRENCHING MEMOIR
Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell #3 is a dark story told with a deft and delicate touch. The characters are compelling, and the art is simply brilliant.
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Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell #3
In a young life full of terror and pain, a young Mechanika also learns about kindness.