Saturday, April 26, 2003

NYC Mech: Beta Love #6 Review

The world of using non-humans to tell stories of humanity is quite vast. From Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge tales to Art Spiegelman’s Maus, writers working in this genre are in good company. This is the world that NYC Mech inhabits, and writers Miles Gunter and Ivan Brandon, along with the amazing Andy Macdonald on art, acquit themselves extremely well in it. NYC Mech: Beta Love has been a six-issue mini-series, released by Image Comics, of one-off stories, featuring the same two characters, Quentin and Nika, who meet each other in various situations. Quentin is a by-the-books type of guy, while Nika is a dashing criminal. The interaction of the two characters is impressive, and the depth of their relationship reminds me very much of the work of Brian Wood. Like Brian Wood, there is so much humanity and characterization infused in this short tale of two robots meeting again that one issue is all you NEED to know the characters, but one issue is never enough for what you WANT to know about these characters.

The cover by Eric Canete is strong (Canete sure does well at drawing mechanical humans, doesn’t he?), but the work inside by Andy Macdonald is breathtaking. In particular, there is a scene in the issue where Nika tempts Quentin by speaking of all the places they could go, and Macdonald has to illustrate them all, and it works so darn well. It’s one thing to be able to illustrate the places she’s talking about, it’s a whole other thing to work the illustrations INTO the story, which is what Macdonald does with, dare I say, grace and aplomb. In fact, that’s a sign of Macdonald’s great skill, the way he not only takes the direction from Gunter and Brandon, but he manages to synthesize their ideas into the story effortlessly. Whether it be a segue from a movie Quentin is watching to real life, or his depictions of the various gears and such that make up the character’s movements, while still never wavering from their various human expressions of pain, love and sorrow.

It does not hurt that Gunton and Brandon offer up a devil of an interesting plot for him to draw, of course. The set-up is simple, Quentin and Nika find themselves in a position where both of the two people (can’t bring myself to calling them robots) are completely set in their stance, and for either one to give on their stance would require betraying the very core of their being. So what do you do there? How do you resolve that? Their feelings are not being questioned – they are quite firm in their feelings for each other, the only question is the foundations of their beliefs. Is honor worth that much to Quentin? Is her lifestyle worth that much to Nika? These are the questions they not only have to answer, but they have to answer in a hurry, in a setting that does not lend itself to reasoned thought.

Like all great relationship-driven stories, there is more than a little bit of tragedy mixed into the tale. That is expected. Such is life. But HOW the tragedy works into the story is how the journey becomes enjoyable. I would recommend NYC Mech: Beta Love #6 without reservations, and I think that you do not need to read the previous five issues to follow this issue, which is fun. For more information about NYC Mech, check out their website here. It is a very well-put together website, I must say.

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