I always enjoy visiting the Boston Metaphysical Society, the clockwork steampunk world Madeleine Holly-Rosing created. Her unique vision of a delightfully different past always has me wanting to read more of her tales of the battle against strange spirits and demons in late 1800s Boston, set against a world in which Great Houses dominate the city.
The latest short comic story, The Scourge of the Mechanical Men, continues from adventures Holly-Rosing presented in a previous epic storyline. During that grand tale, much of Boston was destroyed by a supernatural being named The Shifter. Great inventor Nicola Tesla tried in vain to defeat The Shifter, and it’s his frustrations with his failure that give this new story so much of its energy. Allied with African-American scientist Granville Woods in a racially polarized Boston, Tesla and Woods must stop a bizarre threat of clockwork men engineered by a very odd brother and sister.
I love how so much is going on in the background here but very little of it overshadows the main story. It had been several months since I read the previous Boston Metaphysical story, so I came into it cold, but I was able to pick up on the action and emotion of this story quickly. Within the first page, Holly-Rosing grounds the reader before quickly dragging us along for her thrilling adventure. The motivations for the odd villains of the piece seem totally logical in context and we don’t need a deep backing in their story to really understand what they are doing – but the more we understand about their actions, the more depth this story has.
Similarly, there is a background of struggle between the Great Houses combined with Tesla’s comeback from his depression and complexity around how Granville’s family handles his mystical concerns. All of these elements combine to offer a delightfully rich world and helps make these characters feel more realistic.
Gwynn Tavares delivers art that nicely matches the story. You can see from the image above how clever he is with his page designs and how interesting these villains look. As well, Tavares’s art provides a nice air of strangeness to the story that helps it feel both grounded and otherworldly. At times, he skimps on the backgrounds and sometimes his art feels a little sketchy, but he is good at small and revealing character moments that illuminate character.
Anytime I get a chance to visit Madeleine Holly-Rosing’s 1800s Boston, I take that ride. This wonderful comic was no exception. Tesla gets redeemed, Boston gets to survive and I got to smile a whole lot.