Mechastopheles (pkgd. w/ JD Meg #433) – Gordon Rennie, Lawrence Rennie

5 out of 5

I first fell for Gordon Rennie’s writings for a pretty cliched reason: he took familiar concepts and made them his own. Steampunk mash-ups; future dystopic wars; occult investigators – these are mini-genres many have worked in, but as soon as Rennie touched them, they became wholly his own. And I mean wholly; it feels like a disservice to summarize Jaegir as a Rogue Trooper spin-off, for example.

Then when you get to something like Mechastopheles, scripted with Rennie’s son, Lawrence, and even trying to loosely link it to any genre feels like a failure. And yet, because of the Rennies’ focus on giving good comic – dazzle us with ideas; link it to character arcs; the basics – the sprawling, nigh-unexplainable nature of the strip doesn’t fall into the same category for me as, say, John Smith’s Indigo Prime or something, in which the strangeness of it feels forefront over followability.

In the future, we’re overrun by demons. An inventor used that power to protect his family: he captured a demon’s power and used it to fuel his gigantic, city-sized Mechastopheles kaiju. And just when we think that’s the angle we’re going to pursue – demonic kaiju battles – we also get the inner-workings politics of Mecha, with the creator now housed in an automaton body and his daughter in charge of the machine, mediating between some demon worshipping types and those less enthused on the dark arts. This was all crammed into a 3-part 3riller, initially, and wowed plenty more than just me, such that Gordon and Lawrence and artist Karl Richardson got to expand it into a regular strip – the first appearance of which is also collected here, and details Mecha being brought into the barely-holding walls of one of humanity’s last outposts, and the conflagration of intersecting ideologies – religious, artistic – its presence incites.

The series was so jam-packed with information and ideas (and damned cool visuals from Richardson – again, the Rennies never forget that we are to be entertained) that it was begging to be collected into a single read, and I further hope that there’s a trade on the horizon to collect the third appearance of the strip which is (as of mid-2021) currently running.

Also appearing in the floppy, to round it off – a one-shot Dredd from Richardson and T.C. Eglington. It’s pretty average stuff, just linked by the artist, but an acceptable coda for filling out pages.