Story: George Mann
Art: Joe Eisma
Colors: Michael Garland
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
What They Say:
Earth is an ancient myth, long forgotten. Now, the word of the god-like Celestials is absolute, and they rule with brutal efficiency. When Joss, an Engineward, discovers and reactivates the head of an ancient ghoulem, she finds all is not as intended. Her destiny-and that of her world-lies somewhere far beyond the borders of her shantytown.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Books like these are a huge draw to me even though I go into it knowing that with most of them it’ll take a few issues before I really feel settled in with it. Engineward comes from writer George Mann and artist Joe Eisma working with Michael Garland handling the color work for it. The focus on another world that’s got an extensive past that has left in in the midst of different ages is entirely engaging because you get something that has a real history and sense of language about it if done right. Mann does that here with some of the language elements so that you can figure it out what it’s saying all while still keeping it feeling very otherworldly. And offering narration early on describing the prior age only adds to that.
The opening issue isn’t one that reveals a lot but puts a lot of different things out there. We’re introduced to Ichabod and his group that’s like an expedition that goes off to the ruins looking for things to salvage from the prior age where people left for the stars. The mission goes well for the most part but we do see some chaos that happens when there’s a giant creature that attacks and kills one of the group, forcing the rest to fend it off before making their escape. There are some good little reveals here, such as the affection that Ichabod has for Joss, a young woman that he views perhaps more sisterly than anything else. But she’s also a master mechanic which means a lot in this world as it keeps things functioning, including the ghoulem’s that exist here as kind of strange leftovers from the previous age like a hodgepodge of things.
What we see of these two is definitely interesting toward the end as he salvaged something he thought was interesting for her that turns out to be a navigator head from a ghoulem from the past. That’s going to set up the future of this world and its new age but we’re introduced to the real complication of it in the form of the Celestials, a group of beings that essentially oversea this world that are setup as zodiac element types. This has all the standard kind of bad type of leaders with a mean streak to them, at least from what we see of Cancer, so hopefully, there are more layers to them than that. It’s a brief introduction overall but first appearances are critical and they do at least come off as the kinds of things that you don’t want to be in charge of a world or people.
Engineward gives us a lot to take in here and attempts to frame it with some context but it’s a sliver of the big picture. I think it tries to introduce too much in the first issue and instead should have been focused on anything but Cancer and his side of things so that we really get to know Ichabod and Joss’ world more as we get a good bit of it here and feel grounded through it. There’s a lot to be interested in though and I’m definitely intrigued by the potential here. Eisma’s always had a great eye for design and everything here feels distinctive and interesting as we get to build out a new world and how it’s all put together in a kind of rough and tumble approach where surviving is key. I like the look of the characters a lot and the energy that comes from it, leaving me excited to see if the team can keep expanding on it and building it up.