Friday, February 27, 2015

Review - Joe Frankenstein #1


"The question is, who are you?"

If you're a pizza delivery driver, things might not be the best. You may have a girlfriend, you likely have little money to your name and you may not be related to Frankenstein. Or vampires. Or maybe you are and just don't know it. Regardless, it all makes for a fascinating tale, as in Joe Frankenstein #1 from IDW Publishing. The issue is written by Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon, illustrated by Nolan, colored by Gregory Wright and lettered by Chris Mowry.

Joe Pratt is just a kid delivering pizzas, trying to make ends meet. He's got a girlfriend with whom his relationship is on its last legs and his boss is constantly harassing him. He discovers, upon meeting the monster of his ancestor, that he is the heir to the Frankenstein name. A legacy that may get him killed if the creatures of the night have their way.

Joe Pratt is definitely portraying the reluctant hero card, even throwing in some "down on his luck" for good measure. In that regard, Nolan and Dixon successfully position him as a loser who may still have the key to saving humanity. Joe is believable enough as a regular guy, but one would expect his encounters with vampires and a massive monster to feature a little more incredulity on his part. Instead, he treats his interactions with them as no big deal really and is alarmingly accepting of the magnitude of the mission he's being tasked with. There's a certain aloofness to him that's a little off-putting and somewhat dumbs down his importance, which is in contrast with his presumed importance.

Joe Frankenstein #1 evokes an old-school, monster sensibility to it that's reminiscent of Bernie Wrightson. The vampires and Frankenstein all showcase characteristics of true horror characters, with the vampires sporting sharp fangs, angular faces and a general litheness that one would expect from a creature of the night. Frankenstein is large and brooding, sharing much in common with The Goon's appearance in terms of stature and demeanor. All of the characters are extremely expressive and that's where Nolan does the best work, infusing the book with a wide variety of emotions that really shine through via the character expressions. Wright's colors tend to be a little more basic and skew dark, but still make the book feel alive.

Joe Frankenstein #1 presents a familiar character in a somewhat unfamiliar (to the reader) setting. Joe Pratt is clearly a more important figure than his introduction would lead you to believe and he has ties to Frankenstein that are yet to be determined. Nolan and Dixon's dialogue is a little clunky at times, but it does convey the story pretty clearly to the reader and establishes the key players and plot points. Nolan's art has a good horror look to it that doesn't skimp on the terror-induced situations that the characters may find themselves in. Joe Frankenstein #1 has ambitions about being a thrilling book that looks at a fabricated link between a modern-day boy and a centuries old monster, but the next few issues will tell if it devolves into just another vampire story.

Joe Frankenstein #1 is in stores now.

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