"Frankenstein Underground" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally published as Frankenstein Underground #1 - #5
Written by Mike Mignola
Illustrated by Ben Stenbeck
2015, 144 Pages
Trade paperback released on November 25th, 2015
There's something about Mary Shelley's classic novel Frankenstein that has sparked so many imaginations over the years. The story has been adapted and continued in a number of mediums. Creator Mike Mignola even pulled Frankenstein's monster into his comic universe, having him duke it out with Hellboy in House of the Living Dead. Frankenstein Underground picks up where that book left off, with the creature on the run having been freed from the Mexican laboratory he was once held prisoner. He's alone and confused and looking for life...or death.
Frankenstein Underground has all of the pieces for what should be an awesome comic: classic monsters, story by Mike Mignola, crazy fight scenes, and vast mythology. Somewhere along the line, the book gets bogged down under the weight of all this. The monster wades through a mass underground temple, looking for answers. He finds a bunch of people and creatures that are ready to share history lessons with him. Seriously, every other person he comes across has Bond villain level exposition to spout off at a moment's notice. I really hope he was taking notes because otherwise he is screwed for the midterm.
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The book does capture that signature Mignola grimness. Frankenstein's monster fits right in with the other inhabitants of the Mignolaverse, like Hellboy and Abe Sapien. He'd be right at home with the B.P.R.D. He's lost and been through some really rough times, through no fault of his own. He was made this way. You feel sorry for him, even though if you were to run into him in the woods or in a dark alley, you would quiver in fear. At the most basic level, he wants what we all do; to find a place where he belongs. After all the tragedy this creature has been through, you want him to have a happy ending. Unfortunately, those are few and far between in the Mignolaverse.
The action is pretty solid in Frankenstein Underground. There's a great slugfest in the third chapter where the monster is in handcuffs, being led to a temple. He tries to break free and gets into a brutal battle with a giant wielding a large hammer. Artist Ben Stenbeck did a fantastic job with the design work on these creatures as well.
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The creepiest part of the comic comes in towards the end in the form of the undead folks trapped in the bowels of the temple. They're little more than rotted corpses, ready to fall apart if a sharp breeze blows in. Their clothes are covered in cobwebs. Their skin is withered and falling off.
Frankenstein Underground has some great qualities to it, but is a bit too heavy in the history department. The last two chapters are solid on their own, with Frankenstein's monster fighting to avenge the deaths of those zombie folks in the basement. It just took a while to get there. It looks like a lot of effort was put into making him fit within the mythology of the Mignolaverse and I don't know if that was entirely necessary. He could just be another part of it in the same way that other pieces of folklore are pulled in and molded to the overall tapestry. In any case, he's a worthy addition to the league of monsters already established in the other series.
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