Vault Comics feels like a name etched into my very soul, with their already substantial catalogue increasing and a new title being released what feels like every single week. This week, we follow them into outer space with the recent release of George Mann and Joe Eisma’s Engineward. But is this comic out of this world?
Publisher: Vault Comics
Writer: George Mann
Artist: Joe Eisma (Art), Michael Garland (Colours), HassanOtsmane-Elhaou (Letters)
Price: £3.19 per issue from ComiXology
Engineward follows the story of Joss, the Engine Ward (name of the lead mechanic/engineer/electrician) of her settlement whose mundane routine consists of maintaining the equipment of her water-deficient home and ensuring the good health of her Mechanical Ghoulem assistant, Kreek. However, this life is disrupted when her friend, Ichabod, returns from a perilous salvage trip with a relic that even they do not understand the significance of. This is because the relic is no piece of scrap or dead body but a combination of both in the form of an ancient Ghoulem from the ancient past of when their ancestors arrived to this world. However, with this ancient machine now in their possession and active, what can Joss and Ichabod learn? And will the Celestials, the deity like beings who rule over this world, be happy with this Ghoulem’s secrets getting out?
George Mann has created an intriguing story within the pages of Engine Ward, as we see a mystery start to unfold as to what happened to this world and why the settlers chose it despite the problems it poses. Mann seems to have really gone in depth with the world building as the series gives off this very Star Wars/Firefly feel. However, this feel has less to do with travelling through space and more about the world’s that inhabit that space as Engineward’s locale will feels like Tatooine or Higgins Moon from those respective franchises with it’s mash up of old (the crossbows, spears and shanty town) and new (the Ghoulem Kreek).
However, the plot itself does offer little to begin with, leading to some difficulties in understanding what is happening until the story gets going into the second issue. While this did leave me with a lot of questions and interest in where the story goes, I also felt that supposedly important info was missing. This is especially prevalent of the ‘voice-over’ narrative, in which the text is confusing and also leaves out info like who are the ‘Oert’ and are the ‘maters’ the original Ghoulems?
As for the art, Joe Eisma’s style is solid work and looks extremely suitable to this series, as I thought his slightly rough, weathered lines matched the harshness of the world while also presenting the celestials’ home with a kind of utopia vibe. This was doubled down on both counts by Michael Garland’s colours, whose pale pastel-like palette really helped sell the harshness of the shanty town while also giving a soft, pleasant, luxurious vibe to the Celestials.
Of course, Eisma’s great work doesn’t stop at the world in general as he offers up some truly breathtaking designs of the Celestials which look fantastic and uniquely in keeping with the deities they are named after. Finally, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou also offers up solid work on the letters, although the various coloured dialogue bubbles have me questioning their role and reason within the title as it does not appear overtly clear.
Engineward is the double edged sword of comics; a series with a real intrigue into its world and the power dynamic of the society found within but keeps its cards close to its chest as the story unfolds to a frustrating degree. That said, with its subtly beautiful art tipping the scales, Mann, Eisma and comic have certainly created a series that becomes more engaging with each successive issue, and possibly enticing the reader to hang on until the end.