NYC Mech: Beta Love 1 & 2 Review

Reviewer: Jimmy Lin

Written by: miles gunter & ivan brandon
Art by: andy macdonald
Colored by: nick filardi
Lettered & designed by: kristyn ferrretti
Cover by: eric canete
Publisher: Image Comics

Shall we take a walk?

For me, a trip to New York doesn’t feel complete until I’ve sat down at a dirty little restaurant in the heart of Chinatown. I want to pass by the fruit stand filled with guava, lychee, and white nectarines. To pause by the seafood stores on Canal and look at the catch of the day. To be stuffed by $5 worth of rice crepes and dried-fish porridge. To walk by the mounds of boxes and avoid being run over as I rush across the street. I can hang in the posh hubbub of Soho, bask in the coolness of the Village, or chill in the luxury of the Upper East Side, but for me, Manhattan always has – and needs – a certain amount of dirt and shmutz, something slightly seedy to keep it real and alive.

Apparently, the NYC Mech team feels the same way. In crafting a story set in an alternate New York populated by robots, it would be simple to wash everything in a veneer of slick, unflawed shininess. Instead, Messrs. Gunter, Brandon, and MacDonald craft an almost lyrical tale of crazy love and strange days in dirty, broken city full of unexpected divots of beauty.

Quentin is a bus driver for the city of New York. He lives a quiet life of underprivilege dealing with the old folk, crazies, and other riders of his bus. He seems to have settled into a routine with which he’s comfortable; he likes the small amount of control it affords him. Of course, something shatters this rhythm in issue 1 – otherwise, we would have a book worth an issue 2. A lone gunman (a gunwoman, actually), takes the bus hostage and directs Quentin to take a route different from the one he’s assigned. As it turns out, she’s not issuing demands or robbing anyone; no, she wants Quentin to drive across the fragily-frozen Central Park Pool.

Yeah, that would be a weird day for me, too.

In issue 2, we meet the mysterious gunman as she ambushes Quentin outside his bus depot. Her name’s Nika, and her tactic for seducing Quentin is making a pest of herself. She follows him away from work, into a bar, and pounces when he tries to escape through the bathroom window. The mismatch is obvious – Quentin, the quiet control freak, and Nika, the wild-card free spirit – but many romances spring from such collisions in personality. Issue 2 ends in the aquarium at Coney Island, with naked robots making love as sharks swim around and boundaries slide away.

It’s a New York romance in all of its random, serendipitous chaos, and it’s glorious. Gunter and Brandon manage to turn every cliche into something untired and fitting. The lion’s share of praise, though, must go to Andy MacDonald, whose art is simply wonderful. His robots, inhuman though they may be, are wonderfully human in their postures, movements, and expressions. He’s got a great sense of spacing, alternating densely-packed panels that convey tension and nervousness with expansive vistas that sooth and sing quiet lyrics of bubbles and openess. Keep your eye out for this guy – he’s going to do great things. I haven’t been this impressed with an artist since Tony Harris’s work on Starman #0.

Final Word: NYC Mech: Beta Love is yet another love song to New York, but somehow, it doesn’t feel belabored. The story (script and art) is fresh and well-paced, terse in some places, tranquil in others. This is going to be a special book, and there’s some wonderful emerging talent inside. These guys have a great chemistry going on, and I certainly hope they can keep it together for a long time to come.