Review - Frank N. Stein: Private Eye (@DarbyPopComics)

"If I had a sawbuck for every lousy night I've ended up like this, I'd buy myself a new life."

Frankenstein created a monster in the eyes of many, but in the eyes of other Frankenstein was the monster. It's all a bit complicated, although one thing that isn't complicated is how enjoyable the character is in Frank N. Stein: Private Eye from Darby Pop Comics. The anthology is written by Keith Champagne, penciled by Dev Madan, inked by Madan and Champagne ("Riverdale Jump Street"), colored by Madan and Augie Pagan ("Riverdale Jump Street" and "Strange Visitors") and lettered by Madan.

Frank N. Stein has the face of a monster, the brain of a stranger, and the soul of a poet. Currently, Frank ekes out a living as a private detective on the hardscrabble streets of Monstertown – a nexus where all the fictional characters in the world co-exist. Whether you’re a fairy tale princess, a superhero, or a mythical beast, everyone has a secret. And for a few dollars and a milkshake, Frank N. Stein just might be willing to uncover yours.

Champagne knows that there needs to be a certain vibe throughout the anthology and he achieves that vibe rather effortlessly. The book is broken up into a series of short stories that capitalize on familiar plots that are slightly subverted by the inclusion of Frank N. Stein as a Private Eye, but what's really refreshing is how Champagne presents the narrative to the reader. Frank N. Stein narrates the book through a running inner monologue that offers profoundly deep thoughts and takes on situations, yet when he's engaged in conversation he mutters the expected grunts and broken sentences. It's a really fun, dichotomous approach to the character that allows Champagne to both capitalize on what's expected of the character while also presenting him in a new way befitting of the anthology's approach. Frankenstein (or his monster to be more precise) has always been stigmatized as a terrifying brute with no capacity for sensible decision-making so that makes Champagne story approach work that much better.

Seeing as how Frank N. Stein: Private Eye is a series of short stories, the artwork could vary wildly from one to another; fortunately, Madan keeps things fairly consistent throughout the issue. Frank N. Stein sports a tremendous physique reminiscent of Eric Powell's approach with The Goon--something even more salient because both characters are private eyes. Madan also doesn't let things get too rambunctious in terms of layouts, relying on relatively simple and straightforward grids throughout the issue to keep things organized. Each story is illustrated in a way that seems to fit with the topic of that story as well; for instance, there's a story towards the end featuring a famous sailor that has a very simple yet effective art approach that harkens to that character's legacy. And the colors by Madan and Pagan are vibrant throughout the issue, even when some of those colors are largely black and white.

Frank N. Stein: Private Eye is, quite frankly, a lot of fun. Frank N. Stein is a monster and knows it, but he's also an extremely intelligent and cunning detective who is up for any challenge. Champagne's script is very enjoyable and puts a new spin on many familiar tales and origin stories. The artwork by Madan (and Champagne) is solid, keeping the tone lighter and refusing to let the book delve too much into horror territory. Frank N. Stein: Private Eye is a quick-reading anthology that offers a new look at a familiar character.

Frank N. Stein: Private Eye is available October 31.