Sometimes comic books come and along and not only do they entertain you, they actually educate you as well, and such is the case when reading John Henry: The Steam Age, released through Arcana and written and drawn by Dwayne Harris.
Our main protagonist of the piece is indeed John Henry, and for those not aware of actual old American folklore, John was an ex-slave turned ‘Steel Driver’, a man tasked with hammering and chiselling rock in the construction of tunnels and railroads back in the days of the Wild West.
The legend has it that John was so skilled with a hammer he was measured in a race against a mechanical steam powered machine to tunnel through a mountain. Henry emerged the victor, but died moments after, still clutching his hammer.
In this issue, we get the legend, but moments after we see John Henry fall, he wakes up in an abandoned hospital, in a town that is under attack by steam powered robots. Is this reality? Who knows, but it does not take long for our hero to start swinging his hammer in retaliation to the Steampunk horrors.
The scripting is well paced and the art is very good, with colours that are muted and rusty, really enhancing that Steampunk feel the book is going for. All in all I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of old fashioned pulp style adventure comics such as Flash Gordon or Doc Savage.
On a side-note, this is not the first time we have seen the character of John Henry used in comics before. DC actually based their character Steel, civilian identity is John Henry Irons on his legend several years ago.