The folklore surrounding a true historical figure can be a touchy subject to tackle at times but with such an increased number of the Comics Anonymous pull-list featuring titles outside the likes of Marvel & DC the quality of those titles has become more evident over the last year in particular.
As we have broadened the scope of titles we cover we’re able to stumble upon real gems in a sea of releases – one of the standout titles for me has been John Henry: The Steam Age. A fairly simple premise that merges the John Henry legend with elements of steam punk – such a logical approach that it’s a wonder it has been taken in this direction before. Nevertheless that’s exactly what writer/artist Dwayne Harris has done as he brings us a four part adventure in this release from Arcana Comics.
The story uses just enough of the legend and introduces just enough of a new direction to make this both familiar and new – a credit to Harris on the approach he has taken with the story. He’s then backed it up with a typically gritty style of artwork in a post-apocalyptic world where the machines have risen to power. Although of course, there is always a man behind this uprising as Tiberius Rand, our vengeful villain, seeks ultimate power over the entire world.
There’s a hidden city where John continues his search for his missing family, there’s a weaving plot that sees betrayal and loss become a part of the journey and this all combines in much more than a good vs evil plot. There’s real heart to the story and the strong characters become likeable straight away making us actually give a damn about how this plays out. The fact that Harris is on art duties too means that there’s no struggle between the two elements – writing & artwork – to tell the story as it should be told.
What we end up with is a steam punk mash-up where John Henry takes care of business with his trusty hammer….all before making the ultimate sacrifice to save the day. Action-filled & poignant in places which gives a real sense of depth and one I’m sure to return to again and again.
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