Vault Comics’ Engineward #1 throws a lot at you; an unfamiliar world, many characters, unexplained lore and terminology. However, it seems to be both aware of this fact and proudly unashamed of it. Through solid writing and world-building, writer George Mann knows just how much to reveal and tease, to pull in readers’ interest.
The setting of Engineward is what really makes the comic its own. We follow Joss, the titular mechanic/”engineward,” and Ichabod the warrior. They are accompanied by a number of other villagers, scavengers, and even some potential deities, all trying to survive and understand the wasteland world of The Oert. Presumably an Earth of the far distant future, The Oert is a unique blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic aesthetics.
It’s clear that The Oert as a world is very important to the story of Engineward; the first issue has only scratched the surface of this setting and its people. The actions of the characters remain straightforward behind the backdrop of intrigue and high concepts. This keeps a very healthy balance of familiarity and unfamiliarity. While we may not understand the greater scope of this world, seeing the characters dig for archeological relics, fight strange monsters, and repair robotic “ghoulems” are great ways to show what life in this world is like. A good bit of exposition is smartly scattered throughout the issue, rather than dumped all at once. This is done through occasional narration and context clues in dialogue.
Despite the many new concepts introduced, Joe Eisma maintains a fresh visual simplicity in his gorgeous art. This makes the very strange and different world therefore easier to take in. Michael Garland‘s colouration of the scenery and character designs is bright and unique. Yet, it is never complicated or flashy. We get to know the village characters through their clothes and armor; the cloth and metal are simple, their buildings are sturdy but mismatched in material. It would have been very easy to have this setting be dark and gritty looking, or overdesigned and muddled like many other stories of a similar nature. However, the bits of The Oert we see in this first issue are easily digestible and well-crafted. They are also interesting and adds to the setting in their own way.
With so much laid out in Engineward #1, it is a little hard to see where the story is going to go. Though this issue mainly serves as an introduction, enough plot hooks are established. The setting and characters are so fun to learn about that I think I’ll be content no matter where this story goes. With the amount of emphasis placed on The Oert, it seems like the driving narrative will see our characters explore exactly what this place is and how it came to be.
In addition to the world and lore buildup, there’s a decent amount of character set-up and interaction. I really enjoyed all the characters we meet in this issue. For me, the standout is Joss, the best engineward in her village. Kindhearted and curious, she has a lot of personality. Her relationship with the gruff scavenger and fighter, Ichabod, creates an immediately fun dynamic that I hope to see more of. In addition, we have Kreet, the robotic ghoulem who is concerned about his sentience. We also meet the gentle authority figure Cappin Nypan. There are even the mysterious Celestials!
There is still a lot to explore and to learn. It all coerces me to check out the next issue and get a better understanding of The Oert. I want to see what adventures await Joss and Ichabod. I’m excited to continue the series and I recommend that you give it a shot too.