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A Smashing Time
Created by ggrihn on 5/3/2017 4:10:50 PM

The Precinct, A Steampunk Adventure, by Frank Barbiere (Author), Crizam Zamora (Illustrator).

Reviewed by Gregory G.H. Rihn, Steampunk Chronicle Literary Editor

The Precinct is a steampunk comic collection, set in the rather Steampunk-generic "Big City". ("The Precinct" is the name used for the entire police department instead of just one patrol district.) The plot deals with an ambitious threat of to the governance of the city, as well as to some of its important institutions.

The protagonists are the typical Steampunk dyad of an older, experienced man with "issues", and a younger, capable but less experienced woman. In this case, the man is police detective Mortimer Hill, a brutal officer with PTSD relative to the loss of his arm. He's had it replaced with a robotic prosthetic, which is very good for hitting things. That's good for Mortimer, since hitting things seems to be his primary policing tactic. The woman is Josephine Winters, one of the most gifted members of the Alchemy Academy. The Alchemy Academy is an alternative science institution, which has as one of its purposes challenging the monopoly that steam power has on public life. Mastery of Alchemy gives its users some rather nebulous abilities to channel elemental forces, in Josephine's case, chiefly electricity.

When a prominent member of the Alchemy Academy who also represents the Academy on the City Council is killed by a mechanical demon, Hill is put on the case, and unwillingly saddled with Winters as an observer for the Academy.

We've all seen this kind of mismatched partners story before. What makes this pairing unique is Hill's unrelenting nastiness, which makes the character almost unpleasant to read. Winters follows along as he applies his bull-in-the-china-shop style of detection, eventually aiding him enough to garner grudging respect.

The story isn't all that bad. It has decent artwork, and a conniving villain who combines both Alchemical and steam powers in making his murderous machines. There are annoying bits of illogic. Besides Winters' vaguely based powers, the writing succumbs to the "Six Million Dollar Man" fallacy that, if you give a man a robotic arm, he can do things like pull a vault door out of a wall. Kudos to artist Zamora for showing that the arm is strapped on across Hill's body, but there's still no way that should work. Someday, I'd like to see a writer deal with the natural limitations of joining flesh and steel in a realistic fashion.

Amusing light reading for an evening.

The Precinct at Amazon


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