Clockwerx by American authors Jason Henderson and Tony Salvaggio, and French illustrator Jean-Baptiste Hostache is a visually stunning work. In fact, it looks like stills from a movie were put together to form a graphic novel. So overwhelming was that look and feel that I had to Google the title to make sure I hadn’t missed the movie. I hadn’t. Hostache’s art and framing of the scenes is simply stunningly. This is not surprising when I discovered that Henderson and Savaggio had originally written the story as a screenplay and not a comic. Their initial idea was Sherlock Holmes with Mech. The story evolved into a type of Victorian private detective with mech and a tough Texan woman mechanic, close enough.
The video clip give you a sense of the beauty of this comic, published by Humanoids. Jean-Baptiste Hostache is a tremendous talent. Clockwerx was his first comic and has done a few other pieces since then, mainly in France. The American publishers really need to lasso this guy into more work on this side of the Atlantic. He truly evoked the sense that we are watching a movie rather than reading comic. If a movie is ever made, his work should be the springboard for the production.
The story is a well-done steampunk tale of heroes, villains and, of course, giant mech. The main character is Molly Vane, and the authors dump us into the action with a slow reveal on what is really going on. To avoid too many spoilers, I’ll gloss over some the details. Suffice to say that Molly and her crew are first seen on ship heading to the London of 1899 with a mysterious shipment. A storm hits, people are lost and Molly with courage and leadership pulls them through, though with the loss of her left arm. Molly, it turns out is a machinist who had worked for Lord Oak, who runs a London branch of world-wide conspiracy. Molly doesn’t want anything to do with Oaks and returns to London to stop him.
The other main character is a disgraced London cop, Matt Thurow. He was going after a crime boss, the same Lord Oak, and ended up being sent to jail instead. Despite his disgrace, his sense of duty to the people will not let him rest. When people around the docks start disappearing, Matt investigates. This causes him to cross path with his former partner, Nathan, who won’t listen either about the missing people or Lord Oak.
And of course, he meets up with Molly.
When Henderson and Salvaggio started on this concept in the 1990’s Steampunk was still in gestation. They were inspired by Verne as well as the great old proto-Steampunk television series, The Wild, Wild West. They also wrote for Toyko Pop, and the Manga/Anime elements are visible as well. The real success of their book are , the strong characters against the backdrop of just enough Steampunk elements to make the story interesting, and not over loading those elements which would have rendered the story ridiculous.
If you are a fan of Steampunk, you’ll love this story. If you have never read Steampunk, this is a good place to start.