I’ll admit it: I can’t say no to a great pun. While some might consider that a character flaw, this week, my insatiable hunger for wordplay led me straight into the arms of a great webcomic. The Automan’s Daughter (get it?), written by Mike Stamm, drawn by Shadia Amin, and colored by Sarah Stern, takes place in a futuristic Tunisia, which, following the Ottoman Empire’s victory in WWI, is a global superpower of oil and machine production. Giant machines, or mecha, roam the desert. Most were designed by a company owned by Siddig Khan, former mecha tournament competitor and current fatalistic misanthrope.
Readers meet Siddig when his niece, Aisha, the titular automan’s daughter, calls him for a ride; she’s run away from a military academy, but her bike has broken down in a rough-and-tumble outpost. Siddig arrives in his luxury car (with a rooftop pool, no less!) to pick her up. Before dropping Aisha off at home, where she’ll certain to face the wrath of her parents, he takes a little detour to begrudgingly deliver a presentation on Kahn Heavy Industries’ latest invention. But that presentation puts him in a tough position with the board of his company, and he’s summarily kicked out.
Meanwhile, Aisha’s taking on a battle of her own. She’s not surprised that her parents are disappointed in her decision to drop out of school, but she is surprised they’ve filled her bedroom with equipment from her dad’s workshop. Now, instead of working at her dad’s mecha shop while ruminating over what to do with her life, she’s stuck bunking in an old van in the junkyard. Hardly the warm welcome she expected.
But redemption, for both Aisha and Siddig, is on its way—though its origins are a bit dubious. A French investor, complete with a piggish mien and fussy curled mustache, invites Siddig to relive his glory days in the world of mecha battling tournaments and win back ownership of Khan Heavy Industries. All Siddig has to do is defeat up-and-coming mecha battler Samir LaCroix, a double-amputee whose skills in the ring are impressive enough that he might just consider coming out of retirement. Who better to help him perfect a new mecha than Aisha, who’s both skilled with a toolbox and has plenty of time on her hands?
Amin and Stern’s fantastic panels make great use of futuristic architecture, a sandy palette, a diverse array of skin tones and body types, and—most importantly—intricate, transforming machines, both imaginatively and thoughtfully designed. The world-building is seamlessly woven into the story (which is a spin-off of a still-in-progress animated short about Aisha’s father), thanks in large part to the dialogue and visual cues. As of now, Stamm, Amin, and Stern are finishing up the fourth chapter, and Siddig and Aisha are just starting to brainstorm new mecha designs. Expect lots more mecha battles and big personalities to come. The Automan’s Daughter updates on Mondays and Wednesdays.