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Fresh Steampunk Reviews – Lantern City

I first heard of Lantern City at a Phoenix Comicon a few years ago. It was a project supported by actor Bruce Boxleitner that was slated to become a TV series. With all the new and interesting sci-fi shows on various cable and streaming services, I’d expected it would be well on its way, but I could find no evidence of any progress toward an actual production. However, it has become a pretty interesting graphic novel series. I recently purchased the first volume.

Lantern City is definitely a team project. In fact, its website describes it as “a fan-inspired and fan-created transmedia universe.” It was produced by BOOM! Studios of Los Angeles, which was founded by Trevor Crafts. Crafts is listed as the creator of the series, with Matthew Daley and Bruce Boxleitner as co-creators. The list of contributors is too long to detail here, but the various chapters have different writers, and several artists worked on the book’s visual component.

The story takes place in a fictional place called Lantern City. Whether the time-frame is future or past we aren’t told; it’s more of an alternate world. The technology is very steampunk, with steam-powered airships and the usual accouterments such as goggles and gas masks. It’s a very dystopian place, with a stratified society similar to Victorian London, only more so. It’s ruled by a despot named Killian Grey who preserves his power by employing thuggish hordes of masked guards.

The protagonist is Sander Jorve, a lower-class worker whose only concern is to keep his family safe. His brother-in-law Kendal is an activist and a rebel. Since dissent is strictly forbidden, Sander fears that Kendal will bring the wrath of the authorities down on them. When caught up in a riot, Sander gets the opportunity to infiltrate the Guard by stealing a dead man’s uniform. This leads to all sorts of complications, including the disappearance of Sander’s family into the mysterious Underground.

Lantern City is an exciting story with non-stop action, danger, and intrigue. It has a complex plot, not just good guys versus bad guys but many shades of grey (pun intended.) One of the Grey’s leading enemies is a criminal gang leader called Brother Pont, who is every bit as bad or worse.

Carlos Magno’s illustrations are top-notch though done in a dark, gritty style. The book includes an addendum at the end which explains the people and technologies of Lantern City – one of my favorite parts. I’d guess that the vast quantities of ink that went into this full-color book are one reason for its $25 price tag. The high price is my only complaint, and the primary reason I haven’t yet acquired any additional volumes. Nonetheless, I plan to do so eventually. The series is too good to pass up.

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