Steampunk is a difficult genre for me and I think most people. While aesthetically pleasing an ever-inventive most Steampunk stories seem rather shallow an unengaging. Lantern City tries to add depth by increasing the scale of the story with towering empires, near uninhabitable undergrounds and naïve natives living outside the walls, ala A Brave New World. It tries and doesn’t quite get there. Meet the Fortache! An unimpressively gullible group of natives living outside the walls of Lantern City. Our main character Sander is a Fortache with no culture (having grown up inside Lantern City) so seeing him interact with a way of life he ideally would have experienced was set to be interesting. Alas, the Fortache seem to be a narrative vehicle without much depth. A people who decide to go a huntin’ whimsically in the middle of a conversation. A naïve group that when they are told their new business partner’s promises are really just a bag full of shit they inexplicitly decide to double down on their plans.
We do get some background on our supreme leader and overall rude dude Killian Grey. Killian has been wildly inconsistent throughout the story up to this point. At first he was the dictator of Lantern City and the single cause for everything bad. Then he was a leader bereft of any good intel, nobly sneaking around in the depths of Lantern City to experience the true suffering of his subjects. Now he’s back to being just the son of an asshole who was the son of an asshole who’s in charge. How he is still alive is anyone’s guess.
Artistically, this is a dark book. Heavy shade, speckled with bright lights here and there. Steampunk is known for it’s beauty and imagination but it feels stymied here. Outside of a couple sweet city shots of Lantern City we are left with a lot of dialogue heavy and stagnant non-action panels.
Lantern City manages a remarkable amount of internal dialogue for Sander; when it’s at it’s heaviest is where I feel the art on the page lets the story down. These are things that should be easily communicated with a simple panel instead of having the main character journal his feelings to the reader. These might be the most frustrating parts of the story. That and introducing a giant beast for Sander to prove his mettle against, only to have him just walk away without even trying. Dammit! Some extra action would have been welcomed, hell even celebrated, in issue 9.
Lantern City #9 Writer: Matthew Daley & Mairghread Scott Artist: Carlos Magno Publisher: Archaia/BOOM! Price: $3.99 Release Date: 1/13 /16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital