The world Raffaele Ienco introduces over the first chapter of Mechanism isn’t one that prioritises the well being of humanity as a whole. Humans are allegedly protected by giant mechanical robot constructions that uphold a narrow definition of the law, while any artificial intelligence with a wider perspective is shut down and modified. Some humans manage to scavenge a living from what remains of old cities, but then there’s always the danger of the Geckos, savage aquatic creatures who’ve arrived from another world and quickly over-run most of Earth beyond some well protected enclaves. It’s suspected there’s an intelligence and purpose behind the Geckos, but it remains unrevealed.

Ienco’s the intelligence and purpose behind Mechanism, and his is a depressing worldview, extrapolating the constant emphasis on security promulgated by those who’d prefer humanity was more easily controlled. He’s not without hope, however, and supplies something that may just be the turning point for humanity’s better aspirations. As this progresses, Ienco also dips back, using black bordered pages to explain the past, the intelligence that’s been created with the express purpose of being smarter than humanity in order to save it. Will that be how things play out, though?

It’s that art that’s going to be first thing anyone notices about Mechanism, a rich and warm painted figurative style prioritising the weather, which adds a constant atmosphere, being an amazing evocation of constantly unpleasant conditions. These are conditions in which the Geckos thrive, and Ienco supplies them as a vague army, their features never entirely clear as they go about their disturbing business. Sometimes his humans are a little stiff, but they’re nicely modelled and distinct, and his designs for the future have a sleek energy about them, especially an intelligence housed within a constructed body resembling humans in every way except for lacking a face. It’s an unsettling effect.

A fair bit changes over five chapters, and when they’ve finished it’s apparent that this is but the prologue to a bigger adventure. Ienco finishes Mechanism informing us it’s the end of Arc One, but since publication he’s begun working on other projects and there’s been no sign of a continuation. It’s a pity. A lot of work went into the world building and painting, so what we have is nice, and certainly worth reading on its own, but, oh for more.