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Sci-fi fantasy comic 'Engineward' debuts with intrigue and mystery

The first issue of the series, from the creative team of George Mann, Joe Eisma and Michael Garland, came out on July 15 from Vault Comics.

Courtesy of Vault Comics

There’s a language to “Engineward,” a new 12-issue comic book series from Vault Comics, that’s subtle and evolving. Blending elements of science fiction and fantasy, characters from a shantytown in the distant future struggle for survival on their Depression-like colony world that’s ruled by god-like beings who don’t seem to have the best interests of their subjects in mind.

There’s so much to see, to hear, and take in, making “Engineward” a comic that reads like Christopher Nolan directed it as a new entry in the “Mad Max” film series, as it requires multiple reads to fully digest all that’s packed into each page. The first issue, published by Vault Comics with a release date of July 15, rockets from the start as an action-filled page turner that incorporates some serious world-building, then it pivots to an unveiling of technology and myths, with planetary mysteries to follow.

Written by sci-fi scribe and editor George Mann, “Engineward” is drawn by Joe Eisma, who illustrated a stunning cover of Cancer, a prominent character, for the first issue. Eisma, perhaps best known as the co-creator of “Morning Glories” from Image Comics, and colorist Michael Garland, breathe depth and light into this grime-encrusted desert world that Mann has shoved readers into. Everything Eisma renders is well-defined, with rich textures and subtle nods to help contrast the shantytown inhabitants and protagonists of the series from their Celestial rulers, who operate with a Zodiac theme, which will be shown throughout the series’ cover art.

With the town falling apart at the seams, people going missing, a severe water shortage, and men getting eaten by worm monsters that look like cousins of the creatures from the film “Tremors," the Celestial overlords seem to be doing a lousy job while silent opposition starts building against them. Ichibod, an adventurer and one such resister, is good friends with Joss, a techie called an engineward. Joss works with Kreek, who has one of the best robot character designs I’ve seen.

Interior page from "Engineward" No. 1. Courtesy of Vault Comics

The art team’s approach to the book is straightforward and clarifying, which is ideal for a launch issue that’s packed with exposition. Seeing Eisma illustrate a sci-fi fantasy comic is worth the price of admission alone. As the artist of “Morning Glories,” and a handful of Archie Comics books, including “Archie” and “Riverdale,” readers are used to seeing Eisma pencil teenagers in fashionable, contemporary clothes, making this a whole new experience that allows him the opportunity to stretch his creative muscles.

From the start of “Engineward,” Eisma reminds his fans he has a keen ability for rendering cinematic experiences onto the page. From how he blocks panels, to determining lighting and line of sight, he’s adept at laying out panel progressions as if his reader is watching a movie, which makes it easier to fill in the moments that occur between panels. More than capable lettering from Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou helps achieve this, as Eisma doesn’t skimp on backgrounds, making it critical for Otsmane-Elhaouto to blend dialogue and exposition into scenes without his word balloons being overwhelming or distracting.

Whether referencing the story, or its art, so much of this issue feels familiar, yet most everything seems to come with a twist, making it read just fresh enough to give the book the vibe that it’s working with more than just a new coat of paint.

With 11 issues to go, it’s bound to be a sprint to the finish line, though I suspect it’ll be important to hit the pause button periodically to take a breath, and perhaps hit rewind and revisit previous issues to dig up all the Easter eggs that Mann and his creative team have buried into each page. Maybe I'll have unearthed all the buried treasure before the next issue hits the stands.



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