Reviewer: Chris Delloiacono
Story Title: First Gear
Written by: Joe Kelly
Art by: Ted McKeever
Colored by: Chris Chuckry
Lettered by: Ken Lopez
Associate Editor: Michael Wright
Editor: Bob Schreck
Publisher: DC Comics
I consider myself quite the fan of DC Comics, and I have more than a passing knowledge of many of their most obscure characters. It would seem that Joe Kelly and Ted McKeever have gone out of their way to use DCU characters in their new mini-series Enginehead, but characters that most aficionados have never heard of. I have always been a fan of returning underused characters to the modern realm, so this is cool with me. Too many creators insist on introducing a completely new cast of characters, with no history, when there are a so many interesting characters available to use and deserve a return from obscurity. Seeing a character with a published history show up will often get my juices flowing for a back issue quest. It’s certainly a way to add flavor to an original concept.
The feature article from the issue of Previews that solicited this debut issue had this to say:
â€œEnginehead is the ultimate â€œmechanic,â€ a human machine forged from the bodies, powers, and weapons of six individuals from the DCU: Professor Emil Hamilton, Automan, Rosie the Riveter, Ford, Brainstorm and Doctor Cyber.â€
You get major props if you know more than 2 or 3 of these characters well. Prof. Hamilton, since he’s been a regular in the Superman Family of titles for a long time, is easy. Doctor Cyber is probably the second most known of this illustrious group. She was a relatively regular opponent of Wonder Woman from the 60sâ€“80s. Dr. Cyber hasn’t been seen much since Crisis on Infinite Earths though. As far as I know, her only appearances in the last twenty-odd years have been in opposition of Power Company.
Even if you know this pair, your knowledge of the obscure will be mightily tested with the remainder of the crew. Automan dates back to a handful of appearances in Tales of the Unexpected from the mid-60s. Other than that he’s appeared in DC Comics Presents #33 and his lifeless body can be seen in Legionnaires #68. Rosie the Riveter was the leader of the obscure Demolition Team of villains best known for battling Green Lantern. Brainstorm is an obscure JLA villain that hasn’t appeared anywhere since the glory days of the Giffen/DeMatteis run on Justice League.
The last member of the team is Ford Corrado, whose alter ego is Jackhammer. He was a member of the Demolition Team copycat, Toolbox. He’s the last piece of The Mechanic’s plan, and his story is lynchpin of this introductory issue. While the other characters are all at least footnotes in the DCU’s history, I haven’t been able to find information on Jackhammer anywhereâ€”my assumption is that he’s a Kelly/McKeever creation. If anyone knows information about this characters origin, feel free to write.
By the end of the first issue, a character named The Mechanic has pooled these six individuals togetherâ€”literally. They are to serve a greater purpose as the Transformers-esque amalgamation called Enginehead. Kelly’s script has a Matrix-feelâ€”the reader is not privy to the point of the heroes actions, the attitude is dystopian and the mission seemingly epic in scale. This issue doesn’t do more than introduce us to the cast and the general idea of what Enginehead is. As a whole the issue works as a nice prologue, but don’t expect any real satisfaction.
The DC feature article I mentioned above also stated that Enginehead has â€œa gothic-mechanical backdrop,â€ which I don’t think could be captured more perfectly by anyone than Ted McKeever. McKeever’s work is hard and metallic. He captures this ugly world and his less than beautiful cast with perfection. Even if this issue is a bit light on story, there is an ample amount of cool stuff to look at.
I must admit that Joe Kelly often leaves me flat with his writing. I was pleasantly surprised by Enginehead though. There seem to be some interesting characters, and themes being explored here. I’m still not sold on the book, but I may give it a further look.