Gail Williams heads to the Old West.
I did not know what to expect when issue 1 of The Steam Man on the shelf, though I have to say I was sort of expecting it to start earlier than 1899. But that’s a life lesson, assume nothing.
We are in the cold West, the landscape covered in snow, deep in Dark Rider Territory (the Dark Rider kind of looks like something from The War of the Worlds), and Steam Man steams onto page one.
Then we get a view inside the cockpit of the Steam Man. Odd bunch this crew on first view. A Native American with a potty mouth and three white men of as-yet-to-be-determined origin.
Step back four years, and we’re about to get an explanation of why the West is so cold. Oh and I should make clear that the West we are in is the Wild West of the good ol’ US of A. You know, the desert and tumble weeds, saloons and sheriffs kind of West. Texas to be precise. All’s normal in 1896, then, as Captain William Beadle declares, “the sky opened up, and all manner of nasty shit came through.” Apparently, given the language used, The Steam Man is not for children to read.
We then get an introduction to the crew; Mike Hamner, First officer; John Feather, marksman, tracker; Alfred Blake, navigator, engineer, anarchist. They climb aboard Steam Man and go fight the Martians
Let me make it clear here and now, I’m the one calling them Martians because I’ve read War of the Worlds too much. This isn’t in the comic - they’d probably get sued - but still, it's pretty clear who they were.
Steam Man wins, of course, but there wasn’t much fighting, after all it was the germs who killed them all off really.
There's some introspection about the Doorway to Hell having been opened, and now Steam Man is looking for the Dark Rider, who gets compared to Dracula and has with him an army of Moorlocks. So apparently no literary source is getting out of this one unscathed.
An interesting diversion for refuelling follows, after all this is a Steam Man, if he’s going to walk, he needs wood to burn and water to steam. We get an interesting insight into William’s back story, and his wife Matilda. I have to feel sorry for the pregnant wives in literature, they never last long. This one was grabbed by something rather Cthulhu-esque. The impaling was a little unnecessary, but this comic does not hold back.
Sarcasm aside, I actually enjoyed the opening issue of The Steam Man. Okay, so I’m seeing pilfered plots left, right and centre, but that’s probably just my age and reading taste showing through. The story works, it flows, it has good pace. There’s movement and peril in the writing and it works, which really is the most important thing.
I'm hot overly impressed with the drawing of this one. It’s good enough, but the human faces don’t look quite normal or natural to me. I couldn’t do better, and the standard is well into the acceptable range, but I can’t say I’m enamoured.
I’m in no position to say Clive Barker is wrong to call The Steam Man a “Must-read”, especially since it is a really good read, but I can’t say it’s the best thing since sliced bread. However, I will be reading on for a while, there’s potential here, and it could grow on me. I think I can give this one a comfortable three out of five.
Gail Williams lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and
the wonderful she can imagine. Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits
and pieces are a bit wonderful. Well okay, she lives in Swansea with
her husband and daughter. And the world’s most demanding cat. To find
out more about Gail, check out www.gailbwilliams.co.uk - Dare you!