Saturday, 4 January 2014

New Beginnings - Legenderry #1

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Welcome to Legenderry. More specifically, come delve into The Big City, a modern marvel of steam-powered society. But beware! As with every city there are darker corners that some of the less salubrious and morally flexible residents will visit or reside, places such as The Scarlet Club. 

Issue #1 of Dynamite’s new steampunk adventure is set right here, and focuses on their licensed characters brought together into a new shared world. These aren't the original characters transplanted into another universe, instead we find Green Hornet, Vampirella, Red Sonja, the Bionic Man and The Phantom all re-imagined within a glorious steampunk setting.

Bill Willingham’s story centres on the events of one evening as a way to introduce us to this world. It’s refined, overflowing with money and luxuries, but behind all the entrapments there is also a hint of debauchery slyly threaded throughout. What goes on behind these doors clearly stays there, or are at least not spoken about. Its clientele are anonymous and prefer to stay that way, so when a band of identically-dressed, weapon-wielding assassins burst in whilst in pursuit of Magna Spadarossa, it causes quite a commotion. Magna has gotten herself into a little bit of trouble by searching for answers over the disappearance of her older sister Sonja. Questions that are obviously unwelcome.

Upon their arrival the would-be killers are torn limb from limb by an enraged Vampirella who takes umbrage against their rude injection into her private world, which although personally satisfying does open the potential of revealing her secret to the police, I mean how can the heavily-armed staff at the club allegedly take down all the attackers without a single bullet hole?

Whilst the story has plenty of action I found it a little slow to build and get started. It spent a good amount of time introducing the world and the characters. It’s a weird dichotomy as on one hand I wasn’t overwhelmed by the story and it’s development in this issue, but in the longer term you can see so much more potential. The crossover factor of the different characters is an intriguing one too but the playing field is levelled by setting it all with a steampunk backdrop rather than pandering to any one character's existing environment.

The artwork is a similar affair for me too. Initially there was a feeling of elation when I saw the Joe Benitez cover. Benitez being the author artist on another steampunk title, Lady Mechanika (which is honestly continuing… hopefully… I’ve heard) which is great. Inside Sergio Davila takes over and adds the touch of refinement I spoke of earlier. The detail is elegant, but lacking the mechanical look I associate with this genre, making it more a hint of said style rather than forcing it upon the reader. If anything it reminds me more of Mad Moxie from the Borderlands games or certain interpretations of Harley Quinn.

For a first issue I felt it focussed heavily on one character as part of the story development meaning that the second issue is likely to be a similar affair looking at the Green Hornet and Kato. The direction this takes us in looks to be fairly obvious to begin with but the positives are that this would be an easy thread to follow for new readers looking to try something new from a slightly alternative publisher. It may come across as a little confusing if they enjoyed the characters and then had to follow them back to their real worlds, but it’s still a good way for Dynamite to get new readers.

Will it set the world on fire? I’m not sure but equally I don’t think that this will disappoint. Willingham has a huge following of fans from his work on Fables, and I'm certain fans of that will not be disappointed if they decide to give this seven-issue miniseries a try.

Matt Puddy was bracing himself for another argument as to the definition of the steampunk genre

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