Story by Mike Mignola
Art by Ben Stenbeck
Colors by Dave Stewart
Letters by Clem Robins
Cover by Mike Mignola with Dave Stewart
Genre: Horror-Supernatural Graphic Novel
Publication Date: March 18, 2015
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
— Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
The train Mary Shelley set in motion for the whole world to see has been moving for a long time. And writers keep adding more cars to it. It’s been almost 200 years and we are still mesmerized by Shelley’s Frankenstein and the concepts it brings. Countless movies, novels, etc. have been made based on this novel written by a woman in her early 20s. The themes and ideals the story brought to the world are still relevant until this very day. Now, Mike Mignola, known for writing Hellboy, brings us his spin on Frankenstein’s monster in a five issue graphic novel series called Frankenstein Underground. The series has a lot of potential, but it might need more than five issues to fulfill the reader’s taste.
Mignola seems to be the perfect writer for this series. As the creator of Hellboy, he understands the struggle of a monster who wants to do good in the world. Frankenstein Underground #1, which comes from the pages of Hellboy, gives us a decent look into what’s to be expected of the series. We have the monster of Frankenstein traveling the world in search of a reason for living, and struggling with the hatred man has against him. During his travels, he meets others in the supernatural world, and has to fight the darkside of that world when needed (much like Hellboy, without the cool dream team to back him up or the witty one-liners). This can be an intriguing approach to the mythos of Frankenstein’s monster; his going toe-to-toe with monsters, new and old, in the literary world has a lot of promise. It’s a twist that has been seen before, but this version brings more similarities to the original story than most of the other spin-offs.
The thing I like the most about the graphic novel is the monster in Mignola’s story is similar to the monster in Shelley’s story. He is intellectual and is essentially a human being contained in a broken shell that can never be destroyed. The horror movies usually depicted the monster as a mindless creature behaving more animalistic than human; a creature with the urge to kill anything in its way instead of the drive to pursue a decent life. In Frankenstein Underground #1, we get a mix of Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster and something along the lines of I, Frankenstein. Mignola also does a great job taking similar themes in Shelley’s story and putting them in Frankenstein Underground #1: themes of isolation, a meaning toward life, and conflicting ideals of God. Mignola does leave out motifs of playing God or knowledge being humanity’s demise, which was heavily included in Shelley’s version, but these themes aren’t needed in this story centered on the Frankenstein monster.
The only shortcoming Frankenstein Underground #1 has is it doesn’t hook me to the series. I am left wanting more after reading this first graphic novel, and not in a good way. When you have the pilot of a series, the beginning of a movie, or the first chapter of a book, you need to hook the audience. There is really nothing that makes me say, “I can’t wait until the next one comes out” (like I felt with The Astonishing X-Men). Yes, I was happy with what I was shown, and mildly interested in what happens next, but since I know this is only a five issue series, I don’t think I’m going to be satisfied with how the story is going to end. The thing that would satisfy me with the series is what we got from Hellboy: more action, more relationships, and stronger villains. The villain has the possibility of being a real adversary, but I’m not shown how strong that antagonist is in this graphic novel. Again, for a five issue series, I need a villain who’s going to punch me in the face in the first book; all I got was a gut shot.
If the series were going to be longer, I’d be ok with what I read. There is enough to show me this could be a series like The Incredible Hulk meets Hellboy, but knowing this is one fifth of the entire series, I’d rather try something else. When you read Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, you get everything you want and more within the first comic book, and that is only a four issue mini-series. However, Frank Miller had more pages to work with; Mignola could have made Frankenstein Underground #1 more stimulating to get me to read the other four installments in the series. That said, Frankenstein Underground #1 does have enough material to really push this series to be great. Maybe I’m wrong; maybe the first novel is just a basic introduction and Mignola is saving his best work for the other novels in this series, but I wouldn’t bank on it. When the train comes to your stop and all that’s left is Mignola’s comic, be reluctant to jump on until shown otherwise.
For more information on Frankenstein Underground #1, visit the site at
Photo © 2015 Dark Horse Comics
© 2015, Nick Polizzi. All rights reserved.
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