The Five Fists of Science, by Matt Fraction (Art by Steven Sanders) is one of those books. I really wanted to like it, and it has a promising premise, but in the end it’s more a fun concept than a good story.
Is it a graphic novelette? Yes. Is it steampunk? Sort of. Is it a superhero comic? Maybe? Lovecraftian? Yes, that. Is it an Alternate History with Famous Personages? Yes, also that. Plus, I think there was some influence from Godzilla and also possibly that really awful remake of Lost in Space.
Or: it’s a graphic novel wherein Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain, Baroness Von Suttner, the wholly fictional Tim, and, ultimately, Guglielmo Marconi (the father of radio) join up to…
…well, to use a mech and fight the Axis of Evil represented by Edison, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie. Who I think were intent on raising Chthulhu. I’m still really not sure and I read it through twice (it’s a quick read). Though, honestly, I’m not sure it matters what the plot was. The author (and the artist) had my interest at “Twain and Tesla Fight Evil.”
Speaking of the art, although the characters and backgrounds are well-drawn, there were a handful of times I was a bit confused about some of the characters in-panel. And, the style itself isn’t my favorite.
Overall, though, the story is a ridiculous romp that I suspect was trying to include a point about the causes of War and Peace in humanity. That gets lost, however, in the spectacle that is Mark Twain and Nicola Tesla sniping at each other, The Baroness sniping at both (with one -extremely- awkward moment between her and Tesla), and a giant steam-and-electric robot giving the smack down to a series of increasingly unlikely and mostly projected spectral monsters.
(This was a gift from El Cicco, my lovely partner in the 2014 Book Exchange. I am so grateful to have had my sense of delight in the ridiculous indulged in this way. There will be a review of “The Great Mortality,” my other gift, once I’ve read it. And the chocolate, for the record, was intriguing and delicious.)