Lady Mechanika: La Belle Dame Sans Merci by M M Chen, Joe Benitez, Martin Montiel & Beth Sotelo


Oooo, but this next volume gives us a satisfyingly meaty story in the ongoing adventures of Nika and crew. So much happens and is hinted at in this episode that I am excited all over again about this lovingly crafted comic series.

It opens with a prelude, Two, in which Nika infiltrates Lord Blackpool’s research facility after learning that he has acquired a mechanical arm, found in an abandoned country house. Always looking for clues about her creation (and her creator), Nika goes looking for the arm, but meets resistance when she comes up against another woman who also plans to steal the appendage. This woman, who has similar prosthetics to our heroine, not only recognises Nika, but also talks about how her life has been better since Nika’s been gone. She then drops a bomb and scarpers, leaving Nika and the reader to stew over this new tantalising tip-off.

That abandoned country house was once known as Blythe House and is a wonderfully creepy, mouldering pile. I was intrigued by Nika’s visit there, where a brief memory is triggered, of Ucky, the little part-mechanical demon that opened the very first volume of her story The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse. This series sometimes keeps its cards frustratingly close to its chest, so whenever I see a hint of the over-arching plot, I get excited. I’m always a little afraid that a comic series will just keep going and going without any underlying plan or endgame, (I’m here for the mysteries and the puzzles, but also for the answers), thus any hint that I’m in safe hands is very welcome. Just this little reminder of Ucky’s existence and what it means was enough to catch my interest all over again.

La Belle Dame Sans Merci then sees Lady Mechanika having to put aside her investigation into her own origins when Mr Lewis falls into trouble. I really like Mr Lewis’ character and it’s always cool to see more of him, whether he’s creating some new, barmy flying machine or drowning his sorrows in a bottle. But having only just learned his tragic backstory in the previous volume, The Clockwork Assassin, it was also torturous to have to see him continue to suffer in this episode. And I’m not sure he’ll be bouncing back from this one, either.

The range of emotions Mr Lewis expresses in this volume is exhausting – poor chap!

Without spoilers, this is also the most overtly supernatural chapter Benitez and co have yet produced. Something I’ve really loved about this series so far is the balance it has achieved between its science-ish-based steampunk aspects and its magical ones. The paranormal is a very real part of this world and demonic creatures, ancient rituals and mystical relics are par for the course, (not to mention Monti the possessed mechanical teddy-bear). Here, though, we go full-on otherworldly when we meet Mr Lewis’ new … acquaintance … Mrs Leanna Shi. I’m not complaining, the storyline is fascinating, I’m just observing that this world is flexible enough to encompass a great many unexpected things. And the morality surrounding this storyline is murky, to say the least. I’m still not sure that Nika and Fred did the right thing at the end.

I don’t really need to say how stunning the artwork continues to be, do I? Whether you’re looking at the foreground or the background, the characters, the props or the furnishings, everything is just so gorgeously realised and consistent with the Look this series champions. I’ve gushed before about the wonderful palette, the dynamic storyboarding and the attention to detail, I know, but it bears repeating that this is a sumptuous treat for the eyes as well as a riveting tale.

The reapers have got such a great look, makes me almost want to take up dressing fancy myself.


  1. Just as an fyi, you forgot to remove the big ol’ “insert link” reminder to yourself and you didn’t make “The Clockwork Assassin” linkable 😉

    I am glad to see that I’m not the only one who writes reminders to themselves in the review itself 😀

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