If this was how the west was won, I’m glad I wasn’t there to see it.
When aliens invade the old west, Captain William Beadle decides to lead the battle and organizes the building of a giant mechanical steam man to destroy them and protect Earth. They are successful but soon learn that they were helped along by the Earth’s germs—fatal to the invaders; however, they soon discover a greater threat is upon them. Known as “The Dark Rider,” he has unleashed Hell on Earth in the form of cannibalistic beasties with a very familiar name. Captain Beadle’s mission changes and becomes personal when “The Dark Rider” brutally murders his wife. Joined by Mike Hamner (his first officer), Alfred Blake (the engineer), and John Feather (the navigator), they travel a road that takes no prisoners.
Their foe, “The Dark Rider,” is a man of science from the 1800s who invented a time machine. Whether through intellectual curiosity or arrogance or both, he journeys through time in hopes of finding paradise on Earth. When he lands in the year 802701, he thinks he’s found the happiness he’s always wanted, only to alter space, time, and become the horror he thought he had run away from.
If you are an H.G. Wells aficionado, and who isn’t, this comic is for you. Utilizing the basic story elements of his most famous work (The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, Island of Dr. Moreau), The Steam Man is rife with fun references and plot lines. The crew is barely adequate for the job they’ve set out to do, but it’s a nice change from the uber-efficient crews we often see in stories of this ilk. Though he’s often the smartest guy in the room, it would have been nice for the one minority on the crew to be less of a stereotype. (John Feather is Native America and a navigator, a.k.a. an Indian tracker.)
A much more violent comic than I had anticipated, it is really more of a sci-fi horror story than a Steampunk one. That’s not to say that Steampunk cannot have horror story elements to it, as I love cross-genre stories; it’s that this particular story didn’t carry through on what the impact was on the wider world after having developed the technology of the “Steam Man;” however, it is possible that we will see that in later issues.
The art and coloring is spot on, as it lends a visceral feel to this violent and ugly world “The Dark Rider” created. The trade paperback also has some terrific extras like early concept art of the Steam Man and the aliens. And I do love the cover.
With story by Joe Lansdale, script by Alan A. Miller, art by Piotr Kowlaski, and color by Kelly MacDonald, I’m sure we will see more of The Steam Man marching into a scary alternate future.