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“THE STEAM MAN #2” (Comic Book Review)

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Every once in a while, a story comes along that seems so completely implausible, a fantasy of the most ridiculous order, that you swear it was written during the ‘70s psychedelic sci-fi pulp movement instead of the modern age of comics. THE STEAM MAN from Dark Horse is one of those titles; a work that proves that imagination has no limit and art has no cinematic budget, exploding onto the page with a mix of steampunk, sci-fi, horror, and western. Currently on its second issue, the work continues where it left off with issue #1, this time focusing not on our heroes hunting in a giant mechanical man but on the vampire that they pursue across the desolate wasteland of their world.

For those who haven’t read THE STEAM MAN #1, the story is set in an alternate version of the Western frontier where aliens have come to Earth from a tear in the sky and wreaked havoc on the planet. To fight the menace, four men volunteered to build a giant mechanical man and after a drawn out and deadly fight, destroyed the alien menace. But, unbeknownst to them, they weren’t the only thing to come from the sky hole; a vampire named the Dark Rider and his deadly beasts, the Moorlocks, followed right after. The first issue follows the four heroes as they track after the vampire, intent on getting justice for all those he has slain.

THE STEAM MAN #2 breaks away from the men and this time concentrates on the Dark Rider himself, learning that he was not always a blood-thirsty ghoul. Once, he was a brilliant scientist who invented a time machine. Dreaming of a place far from his home, he travels in his invention until all remnants of society was gone and a new society had risen, one of natural beauty and clean air. But not everything is at it seems. Who are these monsters that kidnap the people? Why aren’t the people stopping them? And why does he suddenly feel an insatiable thirst for blood after getting bitten?

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THE STEAM MAN is definitely an ambitious project and with so many genres put in the mix, it had the potential to be more style than substance. While it does force the reader to basically accept what is happening in the comic with little build-up, it works by grounding the characters. Each one is suffering from the effects of the aliens coming to Earth and the Dark Rider destroying everything they didn’t, creating the strangest post-apocalyptic western world (with several moons rotating around it) that has ever been seen in comic literature.

Alright, THE STEAM MAN #2 does require a bit of an imagination stretch, but that’s part of the charm. Sometimes it’s okay to not have everything explained to you. With the second issue exploring the Dark Rider’s background, we get a bigger vision of what is driving him to do what he does which crafts more of a human-like enemy, once again presenting a soft launching pad into the over-the-top work.

The horror element is also made extra unsettling with the touch of sci-fi, creating a bizarro type world where heads crawl around on little legs and settlers are stalked in the night by hairy beast. The writers, Mark Alan Miller and Joe R. Landsdale, are no strangers when it comes to writing all things creepy and crawly, with the former previously having written the HELLRAISER comic from BOOM! Studios and the latter having won ten Bram Stroker awards for various horror books and collections. Their combined effort has created a massive work that doesn’t sweat the small stuff, instead focusing on making a grand vision of filled with robots, monsters, and all the weird things in between. The art by Piotr Kowalski is solid fanfare and is on point with the details and drop shadows. A massive work shoved into four issues, THE STEAM MAN is already half-way through its run. Pick yours up before it’s over!

About the author
Svetlana Fedotov http://facebook.com/vladkicksass
Svetlana Fedotov hails from the wild woods of the Pacific Northwest. She loves horror and comic books, and does her best to combine those two together at any cost. She also writes for the horror site Brutal as Hell and sometimes for the magazine Delirium. Svetlana has recently released her first novel, Guts and Glory, under the pen name S.V. Fedotov on Amazon digital.
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