Mike Mignola has a way with monsters. Capturing the heart and soul of a creature is a difficult task and yet he and his collaborators breath life into them every month at Dark Horse Comics. Those monsters include Hellboy, but also Frankenstein’s monster, which he tackled with Frankenstein Underground five or so years ago. This week, Mignola, along with Scott Allie, Ben Stenbeck, Brennan Wagner, and Clem Robins are bridging that series with Mary Shelley’s original Frankenstein novella with Frankenstein Undone. How did the monster escape the cold and hopeless Arctic Sea and learn a bit about himself along the way? Find out here!
Why are we so enamored with Frankenstein’s monster and his despair and his dark thoughts? The character’s natural state seems to be one we all encounter for a time and Allie and Mignola do well to capture that mood very quickly with this series. It opens on the Arctic Sea where he bids farewell to Frankenstein and soon finds himself alone in nature until he befriends a friendly polar bear to travel with. Stenbeck captures the humanity in Frankenstein’s monster very well, be it his shock to not be eaten by a polar bear, or the rage he feels when his new family is attacked. For a time it’s as if Frankenstein’s monster is happy living in the wild and hunting with the polar bear, but soon he finds that life plucked away from him much like his sleep was plucked away from him when he was created.
From there the story opens up, introducing a kind old healer. They discuss things like what it means to be a human and how we may be different from beasts. There is a plot twist I did not see coming in this sequence and it leads to an interesting cliffhanger that should further open up Frankenstein’s monster to new revelations of being alive. Speaking of Frankenstein’s monster, there is a strong argument made in this issue that he should simply be called “Frankenstein,” dropping the “monster” in the name. He is a child of a sorts to the doctor, after all.
The colors by Wagner give each scene the perfect atmosphere and mood — a cheery scene on a river with green trees dotting a mountain, to the orange eyes of Frankenstein which seem to suggest he’s of another world. Stenbeck’s pencils are fantastic too, delivering a realistic-looking polar bear, the monster that eats it, and plenty of detail in the blanket Frankenstein wears to the bolts in his body. A simple establishing shot of the old man’s home does a lot to show how the man lives and also how he may have magical abilities thanks to his cauldron and beads.
It’s a bold move to draw on Mary Shelley’s original work like this does, but I think the creators do an admirable job proving they have more to say about Frankenstein’s monster. This is about a character trying to find a bit of hope and understanding of himself when all is lost. It’s a journey well worth navigating with him.