Story & Art: Joe Benitez
Writing Assists: M. M. Chen
Colors: Beth Sotelo (with Sabine Rich)
Letters: Michael Heisler
The Monster of the Ministry of Hell has quickly established itself as the most distressing, horrific entry in a series already soaked to the staples in blood. And for our mechanized femme fatale, the horrors are two-fold.
To start, the titular Ministry of Hell has more than lived up to its name. Scenes of a young Lady Mechanika undergoing vile experimentations at the hands of Dr. Grin are difficult to bear. Joe Benitez’s impeccable attention to detail and design renders these sequences all the more harrowing. Grin’s face-plate, for example, is not overt, yet clearly resembles a copper-welded smile. The emotionless “grin” fits the monster’s title and makes young LM’s pained, panic-stricken expressions even more heartbreaking by contrast.
That said, Benitez is a gifted storyteller. Ministry of Hell does not read as a simple snuff book. While the burgeoning relationship is all the more bitter for longtime reader, Issue #2 makes it clear to all readers that LM’s new ally, Kat, will sacrifice anything to escape Dr. Grin’s hold. The idea of Mechanika being emotionally manipulated on top of the physical abuse leaves one to wonder how happy an ending this arc can offer. My guess: none. None happy.
While readers have certainly seen Lady Mechanika tested physically and psychologically over the years, we’ve never seen her so vulnerable. For two issues, Mechanika has remained too traumatized to speak. On several occasions, she sobs open-mouthed, not able to communicate her grief in any other way beyond barely comprehensible cries.
Sadly, Lady Mechanika doesn’t even get the worst of it in Issue #2. Poor Nora…I don’t know if I can say more on the matter.
Fortunately, there are brighter elements of Issue #2 to latch onto. Present day Mechanika follows her friends through a fun house that, instead of mirroring the nightmares of the Ministry, wisely dabbles with bright colors and garish costumes. Beth Sotelo’s colors are lovely. The Ministry itself, meanwhile, offers a trove of eye-candy, particularly when it comes to designs: the Mum, Mechanika’s nightmare monster, and the various Ministry guards and assistants are all memorably devilish.
As mentioned in the review of #1, Benitez is a master of the layout. Every page is crammed with action, detail, story, emotion, and style. Yet, nothing is ever lost. For reference, check out page–well, any page will do, really. The book is gorgeous.
Two issues remain. Let’s hope against hope our hero makes it out of hell with only the scars she came in with.
Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell #2
One of the more graphic installments in the Lady Mechanika series, but for the non-squeamish, there is beauty here, and potential for our heroine to begin her journey to humanity.