Enginehead #1 (2004)

Enginehead #1 (June, 2004)
“First Gear”
Writer – Joe Kelly
Penciller & Inker – Ted McKeever
Colorist – Chris Chuckry
Letterer – Ken Lopez
Associate Editor – Michael Wright
Editor – Bob Schreck
Cover Price: $2.50

Ted McKeever is one of those artists whose work I will always follow.  Ever since first encountering him in Rachel Pollacks Doom Patrol run, I have been a fan.  His style is just so unique and fun to look at, and has the ability to portray things as beautiful or grotesque… sometimes both.

Enginehead was one of those titles that kinda flew under my radar… and I think I somehow confused it with the Joe Kelly/Chris Bachalo Steampunk series.  Chris Bachalo is another artist who I follow (and really wish he’d do more work for DC) and as such, each time I saw this series I thought it was the other… which I already had.

While reading through the Image-Shadowline Ted McKeever Library edition of Metropol, I started checking through my library to see what other McKeever goodness I had… I was surprised to see an Enginehead-sized hole in my collection.  Something I quickly remedied… but, didn’t actually get around to reading until quite a bit later… Let’s see what’s in store for us.

We open with a strange monologue discussing how best laid plans often go awry, as an orbiting satellite begins coming apart at its seams.  The satellite plummets to Earth crashing in a fiery mess right outside the StarFall Diner in the questionably populated Leadbelly, USA.

Our scene shifts to a ramshackle home in Brooklyn, New York.  Inside a creepy little bastard is flipping through a sleazy skin mag.  With him is a larger gentleman who is referred to as Big Brother.  He is carving up a “bookie scumbag” with a rusty chunk of metal… apparently doing so as a favor for his diminutive skeevy associate.  He finishes up the gig, and tells the perv not to bother calling him again.

Later, Big Bro is sitting on a park bench, next to another shrimpy fellow called Grimes… to whom he hands over his earnings.  We learn that the big guy is named Samuel Corrado.  Now an ex-con just trying to get along, finds himself somewhat enslaved to Grimes, doing all of his kneecapping and leg-breaking.

We get our proper introduction to Jackhammer aka Ford Corrado… I’m assuming this is either the brother to Samuel… or actually is Samuel.  At one point a member of the supervillain foursome, “The Toolbox”.  We come to find he’s had run ins with a heat-vision having “Blue S.O.B.” (or was that Samuel?)… which is my first indication that this is not the stand-alone series I’d expected… this is actually taking place in the DC Universe.

Ford returns home… locks himself in the garage… and starts his car.  The garage begins filling up with exhaust and Ford begins to lull into his final sleep.  As he drifts off, he has a brief conversation with the pin-up girl on his calendar.

Just as Ford’s about to bid the world adieu, a robotic monkey (yup) tears open the garage door… and rescues our man before he draws his final breath.

We jump to Detroit, Michigan.  A large dreadlocked man is making a sort of offer to… Metal Man, Tin.  Yup, this is in the DC Universe… The man, who is referred to later as “Mechanic” appears to have designs on building something.  Tin turns down the offer and bounces away.  The monkey (called Grease Monkey, natch) arrives and has with him the “sixth cylinder”.

Shorty, Ford awakens… he sees five people looking down at him, including Professor Emil Hamilton, Automan, Rosie the Riveter, Brainstorm, and Doctor Cyber.  The fivesome bicker back and forth, in an attempt to assuage the nervousness they’re all experiencing.

The six folks are all loaded onto an odd machine by the Mechanic.  At the last moment, Ford begins to realize the situation he’s in… which is quite interesting, considering just a bit earlier he was ready to (and almost did) take his own life.

The machine engages, and results in an explosive skyward beam leaving the facility in shambles.  At first it doesn’t appear as though anything happened… however, from the wreckage lumbers out… Enginehead.

I gotta say, I’m not totally sure what in the world I just read… but I really liked it.  Much of that is likely due to my McKeever bias, however, the story… what I understood of it, is quite intriguing.  It’s almost an uncomfortable read… like, you feel gritty and grimy after experiencing it.  That’s not always a bad thing… and in the case of Enginehead, I’d argue it adds greatly to the experience.

I really had no idea that this story took place in the actual DC Universe.  I was certain this was just a story that happened to be published by DC… I’m glad I was wrong.  It’s fun to picture these characters inhabiting the same universe as our favorite heavy hitters.

I’m not accustomed to seeing McKeever art in color… much of what I read of his work is in (stunning) black and white.  The lack of color really makes his work “pop”.  That said, the color work here was really quite nice… and subdued enough not to take anything away from the pencil/ink work.

There’s a lot to be confused about in this issue… I’m not sure how much of the opening sequence will be revisited.  Was that pervert a recurring character, or was he just there to give us a taste of what Samuel has to deal with on a day-to-day basis?  Are Samuel and Ford twins… or are they the same guy?  Why was Ford trying to off himself… or was this the “date” that Samuel mentioned to Grimes?    The Samuel/Ford situation is definitely the most aggravating part of this issue, however, I have faith in the creative team that it will all come together in the end (or that maybe I just missed the explanation)… this is only the first issue after all… and a damn fine one at that.

This series only ran six issues, and I am unsure if it was always solicited as such, or if it was an ongoing that just didn’t make it.  I can certainly see it getting canned sadly, as this will definitely not be everybody’s cup of tea.  It’s confusing, it’s disturbing, and it’s different… that said, I totally recommend it.  Hell, even if you leave the story out, Ted McKeever’s art is fun enough to look at alone… and who knows, the story may make more sense without words anyway.

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I didn’t know they used the “Original Universe” branding all the way into 2004

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