Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review - Frankenstein Underground #1


"Of course. The do what they always do. They must try to destroy anything they do not understand."

Frankenstein's monster was an abomination in literature. Literally, he was a mix of a bunch of different corpse parts sewn together and created out of one man's quest to be god. What he didn't think about was the creature's sense of being after being created. It's something that many have tackled in their approach to the character, but few feature the spin found in Frankenstein Underground #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Mike Mignola, illustrated by Ben Stenbeck, colored by Dave Stewart and lettered by Clem Robins.

The Frankenstein creature is alone, abandoned and wandering underground, where he will discover other strange creatures—and dark secrets to the universe. It's this setting that pits Frankenstein against those throughout history who fear him. There still manages to be some who are fascinated by who he is as well and it's one of those individuals that has set his sights on the being to add to his collection. Naturally, Frankenstein won't go down easily.

Frankenstein Underground #1 is a fascinating look at of literature's most fascinating characters. Frankenstein is depicted as a monster--as perceived by those around him--who is hunted the world over for what seems to be perpetuity. Mignola infuses his version of Frankenstein with elements of Hellboy, in that both are largely misunderstood and feared for their general appearance. Frankenstein Underground #1 seeks to humanize the character somewhat and Mignola excels at giving him elements of humanity that engender sympathy in the entity. Largely through exchanges with a kindly old woman, Frankenstein taps into some of the more existential aspects of his being; namely, what purpose his creation has in the grand scheme of things.

The image of Frankenstein in the minds of many is one of a lumbering, mammoth creature who is essentially a walking corpse. In that regard, Stenbeck doesn't stray too far from the norm. Frankenstein in Frankenstein Underground #1 has many more human elements to him than one would expect, as he's actually a bit more emaciated than history would dictate Frankenstein be. The panels depict Frankenstein as a very tragic character merely fighting to survive, a little unclear as to what his grander purpose in life and it's that movement through time that Stenbeck depicts quite elegantly. Stewart's colors cast a pall over the work that's in line with the general mood and atmosphere, relying largely on blues and blacks for much of the cavern sequences.

Frankenstein Underground #1 follows the character through history as he's driven underground into hiding. He has elements of the Incredible Hulk mixed in with his personality that gives him a certain buffer in terms of people interacting with him. Mignola's tale is evenly paced and unfolds in a way that elicits sympathy on the part of the reader for a character who's largely misunderstood. Stenbeck's illustrations are clean and straightforward, showing an emotional Frankenstein fed up with being chased by anyone and everyone fearful of him. Frankenstein Underground #1 will have a lot of fans for its approach to the source material, as it's one that really taps into the the more humane side of a monster, while ensuring that the monster doesn't completely leave behind his propensity for being monstrous.

Frankenstein Underground #1 is available March 18.

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