Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be Frankenstein? Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck, and Dave Stewart explore the life and history of Frankenstein.
Is it good?
Frankenstein Underground #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
The comic gives a pretty clear depiction of what it is like to be Frankenstein. It starts off a little slow with Frankenstein in Mexico at an ancient Mayan ruin where he recounts his past to an old woman who happens to inhabit the ruins at the time of his arrival. He recalls the numerous occasions of being hunted, shot at, captured, imprisoned, tortured, and even thrown into the boxing ring with a familiar red demon. He explores how this affected his psyche and his search to find purpose in the gift he believes is a curse.
About halfway through the book, the story takes an abrupt shift from exploring the character of Frankenstein to the introduction of the Marquis Addet de Fabre, a collector of sorts who just has to have Frankenstein for his own. Mignola and Stenbeck easily portray the Marquis as villainous through his treatment of his servants, specifically what appears to be the Hunchback of Notre Dame. They do an excellent job of building up the characters and revealing their nature in a short amount of time.
The transition to the next phase of the story is a little tricky and took me a couple of read-throughs to fully grasp what was happening despite Mignola clearly stating it is a dream sequence and Dave Stewart providing a maroon-like filter to contrast the panels from the rest of the book. What muddles the sequence is what happens after the dream when an action sequence takes place. It is not clearly explained as to how the attacker arrived at Frankenstein’s location; they sort of just appear out of thin air or in this case on the panel.
Stenbeck’s action sequence is short and sweet only lasting about a page and a half. He leaves much of the combat open to the reader’s imagination focusing on key moments and big smashing hits and tosses. However, Stenbeck struggles to convey the emotions of Frankenstein. There may be one excellent panel depicting his utter rage but the next panel has him looking almost dumb-founded or mentally challenged rather than in an emotional torrent of anger. It really disconnects you from Frankenstein, not allowing you to feel sympathy for him which much of the story has been built to do.
Stewart’s use of color does an excellent job of highlighting the action. The majority of the panels use very dark colors from black and gray to some subdued or faded greens, but when there is any type of action happening he livens the panel up with an infusion of yellow. Whether Frankenstein is going mano a mano with a dark-winged demon or the Hunchback of Notre Dame is getting smacked in the head with a wine glass, yellow is present as the dominant background color. It draws the attention of the reader’s eye immediately although at the same time it deemphasizes the other panels forcing you to refocus your attention to the other panels on the page.
Is It Good?
Frankenstein Underground #1 was an average read. It had a really slow start although it delved into who Frankenstein is and what he has undergone since the year of his creation. It was extremely difficult to connect with the character even towards the end when he becomes overwhelmed with emotion.
The introduction of the Marquis did liven up the story a little bit providing a nemesis with clear convictions and motivations. Stenbeck’s action sequences are short and sweet leaving a lot to the reader’s imagination, but there are some panels where the emotion he is trying to convey does not work and sometimes even backfires disconnecting you from Frankenstein. Stewart’s colors do a good job of highlighting the action sequences, but it can distract you from the other panels on the page (which actually might not be a bad idea given some of Frankenstein’s facial expressions).