Story & Art: Joe Benitez
Colors: Beth Sotelo
Letters: Michael Heisler
Writing Assists: M.M. Chen
Art Assists: Martin Montiel
Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell was not exactly set up for success. After more than a decade, readers would finally get a (partial) look at Mechanika’s origins. But how could creator Joe Benitez tell a thrilling, impactful story when we know, ultimately, how she fares? Despite the “prequel conundrum,” the first three issues told an emotionally gripping, often grotesque tale. The fourth and final installment, meanwhile, cements Ministry of Hell as the strongest Lady Mechanika story to date.
Towards the end of the issue, Benitez resolves various past and present plot lines in satisfying and sensible ways. But over the last few pages, he and Marcia Chen deliver a series of seriously unexpected developments. Friends prove unworthy of our mechanical heroine’s trust, a rare commodity, while enemies reveal softer sides. Several characters thought to have vanished reappear, one of whom will no doubt play a major role in upcoming Mechanika adventures.
But the primary reversal in #4 is nothing short of horrifying, as Lady Mechanika’s past wraps around to throttle her in the present. Who exactly is the real monster in the Ministry of Hell? That’s the question we leave Mechanika pondering. And as an old friend laments, the answer might destroy her. After seeing a young Mechanika far more vulnerable and powerless than ever before, we end with an adult Mechanika who is absolutely shattered.
As always, Benitez’s art and Beth Sotelo’s colors are rich and impeccably detailed. An early “action scene” depicts what might be the darkest moment of Mechanika’s life, one that assumes new layer of horror as the macabre story unfolds.
Another memorable page provides a wide shot of the ministry in all its hellish glory. Yet, leave it to a Mechanika comic to have panel borders so pretty and intricate they deserve as much attention as the beautiful, gothic nightmare factory dominating half the page.
Mechanika, now an ongoing series at Image, will take a few months off. Which is fine. I’m apprehensive about her next outing. I can’t imagine what state she’ll be in. Interior art will be handled by someone other than Benitez for only the second time in the series. In this case, Siya Oum will take the lead. Fans can find a preview of her gorgeous take on the world of Mechanika in the back of the issue.
The back matter also reveals September 2022 as the expected release date for Lady Mechanika: The Monster of the Ministry of Hell trade. I’ve certainly added it to the list.
Lady Mechanika #4
The Monster of the Ministry of Hell is Lady Mechanika at its very best, and unlike so many otherwise quality stories, it ends on its strongest, most lingering notes. A highly recommended read.