Comic Review – The Steam Man #4

  • Writer: Joe R. Lansdale
  • Script: Mark Alan Miller
  • Art: Piotr Kowalski
  • Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
  • Lettering: Nate Piekos
  • Release Date: January 20th, 2016

Those of you who follow my reviews already know of my proclivity for certain kinds of comics. If you are reading one my reviews for the first time I must confess that I am a sucker for comics set in history. Perhaps it is the characters’ manner of speaking, garb, or the familiarity of the subject matter makes it easier for me to warm to them. These comics grab the attention of my discerning eye perusing the racks of my local comic shop and entice me to pluck it off shelves already bursting with new titles every week. However to keep my attention, said comic must done well and provide a new spin on familiar subject matter. Writers Joe L. Lansdale, Mark Alan Miller and artist Piotr Kowalski are delivering an exciting, double barrel blast of brutal and bloody adventure in The Steam Man #4 by IDW.

Warning: Plot points will be revealed in the upcoming sections, so if you would rather wait for the trade, stop here. If you are looking to jump on board, read on!

THE STEAM MAN #4 Cover by Piotr Kowalski
THE STEAM MAN #4 Cover by Piotr Kowalski

In 1885, a traveler created a rift in the very fabric of time when his time machine is damaged trying to save an Eloi named Weena, a descendant of the human race, from the barbaric and blood thirsty Moorlocks. Tragically, this accident also mentally and physically transforms the traveler, who develops a hunger for flesh. He returns to 1899 hoping to escape his plight but the Moorlocks and other terrors of the future travel back with him, colliding with and changing the world forever. The traveler becomes The Dark Rider and master of Moorlocks, turning the earth into living hell.

Fortunately, Captain Beadle built the Steam Man four years earlier. He recruits a former boxer and sophisticate, John Hammer as his first officer. Alfred Blake, anarchist, is his navigator and engineer. Native American John Feather is his tracker and marksman. Together, they pilot the towering Steam Man on a mission to seek and obliterate the Dark Rider and his demons.

What makes this title stand out is the diversity of 19th century characters writers Lansdale and Miller assemble to defeat the Dark Rider. John Feather is one of my favorite characters of the series, who trying to learn how to use humor like his crew mates. His attempts often fall flat with Captain Beadle, but are some of the laugh out load moments in the book. Using elements of H.G. Well classic The Time Machine  was an unexpected and surprising twist, but any comic book worth selecting from among a crowed market place must offer fresh surprises for the reader.

In issue #4 titled “Things Get Pissy”, there are even more unexpected and surprising developments I won’t spoil here. As interesting and fun as many of these characters are, none are safe in this series. This issue contains some of the most bloody and brutal scenes yet. The language is can be coarse, but it fits the characters and the dire situation they find themselves trapped. The language will resonate more with modern readers than would curses of the period. A similar technique was used in the HBO series Deadwood and works to great effect here as well.

Artist Piotr Kowalski, who also is the artist on the series Sex from Image, does a very effective jobs of portraying some of the more brutal scenes without being gratuitously graphic. He also does a superb job of creating a sense of scale when drawing The Steam Man. Kelly Fitzpatrick’s panels splashed blood red add emphasis to the more violent combat scenes.

The Steam Man #4 is the most violent issue in the series yet but is pays off in a big way, giving the reader unexpected surprises and painting our heroes into a bloody corner. The Steam Man #4 is the continuation of a great series with enough unique and fresh plots twists making it a must add to any readers pull list.

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About the author

Christopher Calloway

Christopher Calloway is the small press and idependent comic creator editor for Word of the Nerd. He is long-time comic book reader and collector who is passionate about comics and their creators.

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