Steampunk meets magic in Dynamite's The Precinct

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My first real exposure to steampunk was Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series way back at San Diego Comic Con in 2011. I happened to be looking for someplace to take a break waiting for a panel to start, and I ended up sitting in on Scott Westerfeld’s panel. He talked quite a bit about his other work, but his description of Leviathan caught my attention. It is a retelling of World War I, but the Central Powers (Clankers) use mechanized, steam-powered war machines opposed by Entente Powers (Darwinists) who fabricate living creatures genetically. Even before the panel was over, I had downloaded the first book on my Kindle and loved it.

Then I came across Dynamite’s Legenderry series. Legenderry takes a variety of Dynamite characters like Vampirella, Red Sonja, and Green Hornet and reimagines them all in a shared steampunk city. To be honest, when I first heard about Precinct, I actually thought it would be set in the Legenderry world. I was a little disappointed to find out that wasn’t the case. But as soon as I read the first issue of  The Precinct, that disappointment quickly went away.

 


THE PRECINCT #1

Written by: Frank Barberie
Art by: Crizam Christhian Zamora
Colored: Dinei Ribeiro
Lettered by: Troy Peteri

Published by: Dynamite
Cover Price: $3.99

Warning! This review contains quite a few spoilers!

The Precinct is the police force in a sprawling steampunk metropolis known as The Big City. The book focuses on Mortimer Hill, a veteran officer called in to investigate a bizarre murder. The victim is a high standing member of the Alchemy Academy and a bizarre symbol was left at the murder scene drawn in blood. The Alchemy Academy sends over a liaison named Josephine Winters to assist in the investigation. Winters is young, and Hill doesn't trust magic. A witness reported the killer was a fire-breathing monster. They are called in on another attack and find a massive machine in the shape of a minotaur.

A few weeks ago, I had written a review of Dynamite’s new crime series “Seduction of the Innocent.” I had complained in that review that the creative team didn’t do much to make that book stand out. The Precinct avoided that trap brilliantly. We get a terrific blend of police drama, steampunk, and the supernatural here. And it is written with such a deft touch that everything blends together some seamlessly.  

There was a lot going on here, but it's actually surprisingly easy to follow. There is basically one long narration drop in the middle explaining the Alchemy Academy, but for the most part, they just let the story and characters flow naturally. It's never heavy handed, and you always feel like you have a good handle on everything.

Hill and Winters seem like a classic police movie pairing. All the familiar elements are here. Grizzled veteran. Fresh face newbie with a perspective the veteran could never understand. Brutal murders of high-placed members of society. But The Precinct provided plenty of new twists to keep the reader engaged. I was reminded of some of my favorite crime comics, like Tithe, Ruse, and Powers. They each took what could be a cliche genre and give them a new perspective. Exactly like The Precinct did.

In addition to being a fresh take on the crime genre, The Precinct is also a gorgeously drawn comic. Dynamite always seems to find the right artist for each project, and this is another masterpiece. I especially liked how different Hill and Winters worlds seemed. At times, they almost felt like two different comics, but the great creative team made it all work into one terrific, coherent final product.  I also loved the reveal of the killer on the last page. That was just one hell of a design!  If you are going to design a mystic, metal minotaur, go all out with it!

Dynamite continues to be one of the most innovative comic companies. Dynamite might have been my favorite comic company of 2015, and with books like Precinct and Shaft 2, not to mention their relaunches of favorites like Red Sonja and Vampirella, 2016 is shaping up to be just as awesome.


 

Title: The Precinct #1
Written By: Frank Barberie
Art By: Crizam Christhian Zamora
Company: Dynamite
Price: $3.99
Pros:
  • A terrific new take on the crime drama
  • Steampunk and mystical elements blended perfect
  • Memorable characters and setting
  • Never heavy handed with the exposition, let the story tell itself.
  • Great art
Cons:
  • None
Is it worth your $3.99? Yes. This was as close to a flawless comic as I've ever read.  I couldn't find anything to complain about when I was writing this review.  And trust me, I looked...
Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0