“MADAME FRANKENSTEIN, VOLUME 1” (Comic Book Review)Book and Comic Reviews,Books/Art/Culture,News Svetlana Fedotov
While female versions of Frankenstein’s monster tend to fall by the wayside in preference to the more classical, male rendition of the village-terrorizing creature, lady monsters are surprisingly not as uncommon as you think. From Universal Studios’ vintage tale of horrific love, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, to the more recent-ish FRANKENHOOKER, women and the classic Shelley work have crossed paths on more than one occasion. Thanks to Image Comics’ newest graphic novel horror, MADAME FRANKENSTEIN, we get another female-led rendition to add to the meager collection.
Like many stories of mad science, our comic opens up on a man who just won’t take “She’s dead, Jim!,” for an answer. Plopping his former lover onto a wooden table, Dr. Vincent Krall shoots ten thousand volts through her dead body in hopes of reviving the perfect woman. Suddenly, she rises; A form from beyond the dead, more monster than person! He cackles in glee, eager to begin a new life of medical wonder and rubbing his step-brother’s nose in his success.
Krall renames the monster “Gail” and proceeds to teach her how to blend into society through a somewhat warped view of how a proper lady should act. As he attempts to “raise her proper,” lies, secrets, and betrayals are quickly revealed around her, especially when his step-brother Henry comes sniffing around. Mixed with Gail’s quickly growing self-realization and the arrival of a new love, things get pretty gruesome, pretty quickly, and it leads to the collapse of everything Krall holds dear. Also, what’s up with all of these fairies?
A mix of human drama and depravity, MADAME FRANKENSTEIN explores the dark side of gothic romance (like there’s any other kind) and the consequences of creating and controlling another human being. Adding a touch of actual magic to the science, the reader is treated to a unique version of an old story. Another unique point is the very sporadic use of blood and violence where instead, the comic pays stronger attention to the human side of both the monster and the doctor. The real horror is in watching everyone slowly consumed by madness, be it Gail’s thirst for freedom or Krall’s need prove himself in light of his history.
One of the more interesting aspects of MADAME FRANKENSTEIN is the lack of sympathy for the lead, Vincent Krall. Generally, we see the monster’s creator, a/k/a Dr. Frankenstein, as a gentle- if somewhat mad- scientist with only the best intentions for the creature. Krall, on the other hand, is, for lack of a better word, a huge dick. He is driven by greed and anger, and while the recognition aspect isn’t too far from the source material, his desire to control and manipulate Gail kills any sympathy the reader might have had. This, of course, makes him the true monster of the work, bringing an interesting spin to the tale, especially as it reaches its grim apex.
The team of Jaime S. Rich and Megan Levin does an excellent job of bringing the story alive. Rich, who is mostly known for a number of smaller press works, brings his talent for unique storytelling front and center, creating a moving work that intrigues as much as it shines a light on women ten years after the suffrage movement. He also uses Gail and Krall as a metaphor for the struggles of human relationship while allowing for individual freedom. His pacing is fantastic and each character has its own personality that adds wonderfully to the story arc. Levin’s black-and-white art excellently accompanies Rich’s words, with a great Bone-esque style art work that leaps off the pages. And the expressions and movements are spot on and tightly inked to create a whole, sweeping package.
Madame Frankenstein Volume 1 hits shelves from Image Comics on March 18th, 2015.