Big Robots. Giant Mechs. Whatever you want to call them, they have a big place in comics–especially in manga! You could go to the manga section of your local Barnes & Noble, or even that comic shop that seriously stocks them for rabid fans, and find at least ten titles involving the mechanized brutes.
They’ve almost become cliché and the thought of revisiting the genre again really didn’t excite me–I’ve seen and read a lot of it! After awhile it becomes: You’ve seen one big robot story, you’ve seen them all!
Enter Magnetic Press with the French import, MEKA by Jean-David Morvan and illustrated by Bengal–bringing to my shelf a big robot story but with something much more to make me sit up and take notice. Instead of just focusing on giant robots beating, crushing and stomping the shit out of each other–which there’s plenty of to statisfy you Mecha Manga nuts–the story takes the action to street-level after two pilots of a giant Meka have to abandon their badly damaged craft and make their way through the war-torn city they were trying to protect. It does not go well.
Unlike most writers of big robot comics, Jean-David Morvan (France) doesn’t just keep the story in the sky amongst the battling towering metal monstrosities, he brings us down to the ground to show us the survivors of the city’s population who hold a considerable amount of animosity towards the wondering Meka pilots despite being their protectors. They have been victims of the collateral damage the big robots caused with their gigantic rumbles–crushed under falling debris and falling Mekas as they collapsed in battle–and they want someone to blame. This makes the journey of our Meka pilots a perilous one–one that forces them to have to kill the very people they have sworn to protect. Heavy stuff. And I love it.
Morvan and Bengal have made me remember why I love comics and why the Europeans are–I think–the best at making them. Morvan’s writing is fantastic–drawing you into the relationship between the “newbie” Meka pilot and her hard-ass leader who–despite seeming to be a military douche bag–turns out to have been a pretty down-to-earth guy who placed it upon himself to join the fight in order to protect the innocent. Morvan’s dialogue between the two main characters–the Meka pilots–flow without cliches; revealing much about them. In addition, through the fantastic artwork of Bengal (France), he reveals much more abut the characters through their actions within panels that provide no dialogue–taking Morvan’s direction and providing the scenes “heart” through his illustrations. The duo make great collaborators–bringing a very European feel to a genre rooted in Japan. Even the designs of the Mekas defy many of the designs of the big robots of Japan and they are huge!
To be honest, I left the Giant Robots back in the ’80s with Japan’s Macross (known as Robotech here in the States), but I always seem to gravitate to any mechanized monsters when I see them gracing the covers of comics. MEKA is no exception; making me glad it spoke to me with it’s beautiful cover–I cant tell you how beautiful Magnetic Press‘s publications are!–and reveal to me new European comic creators to add to my collection of comics by the European comic legends of the past.
With MEKA being my first book from Magnetic Press, it has already made me a fan of their company and I will definitely be picking up everything they bring to the shops to kick our minds around with. Morvan and Bengal have collaborated before on a title, NAJA, which was originally published in France but have generously licensed it to Magnetic so we here on this side of the Atlantic can enjoy it as much as our European friends. Furthermore, ZAYA by Morvan/Huang Jia Wei has also been published by this young, upstart of a comics company and it too should be given a look. Why? Because Morvan is one of the most interesting writers to grab my attention in quite awhile. And I think his comics are the ones you should be reading. I mean, he made me read about Big Robots again. That’s hard to do.