"Frankenstein Underground #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Ben Stenbeck
2015, 24 Pages, $3.50
Comic released on March 18th, 2015
There's something about Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein that captured so many imaginations. New creators are still putting their own spins on this creature almost 200 years later. Mike Mignola is joining the fray with Frankenstein Underground, pulling the monster into the world of Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. Lost and alone, the undead being shambles into a strange temple in Mexico in 1956. While he's cared for by a mysterious old woman, he's become the target for an eccentric collector of supernatural creatures.
Mignola has a definite talent for adding a human element to monsters of all shapes and sizes. It's one of the reasons that Hellboy has been such a strong character over the past twenty years. Frankenstein's monster is no different. He shares some of his history, going back decades as he was hunted across Europe before being sold as a sideshow attraction in Mexico in the 1950s. That's where he met Hellboy in a boxing ring of all places (which is a fight I would kill to see).
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Unlike someone like Roger the Homunculus, Frankenstein's monster (I really wish we had a better name for the character. Can I just call him "Frank"?) doesn't provide any comic relief. This is a tragic figure who has led a tortured life from the moment he was reanimated. There's no place for him in this world. This is a man that prays for a death that can never come. That's why he's so caught off guard by this old woman in the temple, who shows the only real human decency he's ever seen. She treats him like a man, not an animal or a thing.
There is still a naiveté about him too. He's been through a lot in his 100+ years walking this earth, but there's a childlike innocence to him. This can be taken advantage of by nefarious individuals. In a very short amount of time, Mignola turns this creature into a very relatable man. I just wanted to hug him and tell him it would be alright.
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Artist Ben Stenbeck is a good complement to Mignola's story. He draws in a very Mignola-esque fashion, allowing the images to speak volumes without being bogged down by a lot of text. The locales look like demented haunted houses, taken from a variety of time periods. This helps convey a sense of foreboding throughout the issue, as if Frankenstein's tortured existence is not quite over.
Frankensten Underground takes what started as a one-note character and builds him into a powerful yet tormented individual. This isn't Boris Karloff shuffling around with bolts sticking out of his neck. I mean, this is Mike Mignola on Frankenstein. Do you really need another reason to read this?