Vault Comics has consistently put out interesting and unique comic book stories for four years running now. Out this week is a new zodiac-inspired, twelve-issue science-fantasy comic series called Engineward. I would recommend reading the synopsis here before reading this work, as it’s not the clearest first issue.
This issue opens on a metal head being excavated by some archeologist types and quickly being attacked by a giant centipede dragon. There isn’t much in the way of full introductions, leaving the reader feeling behind and grasping at straws to figure out what they should care about. This carries forward due to the way characters are introduced and the use of captions.
George Mann does a beautiful job explaining in a sort of obtuse way who these people are and what they have endured via the captions. Unfortunately, these captions are spread out over the book, starting with captions on the first three pages but then being dropped in sporadically every few pages. I went back and reread them one after the other and they ended up making more sense and shedding a brighter light on the story.
The story never really grabbed me, either. The main protagonist is an interesting engineer who is clearly still lower level and unnoticed, but the villain is your standard super-rich and selfish overlord who needs squashing. The politics in the book seem quite simple from the get-go and may get more interesting, but I wasn’t drawn in by any means.
The art by Joe Eisma, with color by Michael Garland, has its moments, but I found it too simplistic and flat in its choice of angles and layouts. It’s very standard fare, which further hurts the story’s ability to grab you on top of the narrative problems. Perspective can look wonky at times too. One example is the reveal of a zodiac table with a menagerie of characters around it. The image doesn’t quite come together making some of the figures looked pasted in. There are various examples of perspective looking off and the depth of the page looking flat.
Engineward #1 is an unfortunate example of a story having the right pieces, but making it too hard for readers to dive in and enjoy the story for what it is and what it is doing. When I reread the synopsis and the captions I liked this story a lot more, but the delivery is too clunky to make it recommended reading. There are 11 more issues to go through and plenty of time for this ship to right itself, but on the onset, I was left underwhelmed.