Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: Frankenstein Underground by Mike Mignola et al.

Frankenstein Underground story by Mike Mignola, art by Ben Stenbeck, colors by Dave Stewart, letters by Clem Robins

Frankenstein's monster is wandering around 1956 Mexico after his bout with Hellboy. He's been shot in the chest and wanders into some ancient ruins. He finds an old woman who heals him through magical powers of the ancient gods symbolized by the enormous statues in the ruins. Meanwhile, a French noble who deals in the arcane (he has one of *those* bookstores, if you know what I mean) wants to add the monster to his collection of odd beings. He sends one of his agents with strict instructions not to harm or kill the monster. In the fight, the old witch is mortally wounded and the monster is harmed, prompting the collector to suddenly summon back his agent. The monster cradles the dying witch in his arms. He asks her to heal herself but she cannot. He goes berserk and demands the gods around him heal her. He smashes up the statues, which collapse on top of him. Everything crashes through the ground, dropping into a subterranean world of horrors and remnants of the ancient Hyperborean civilization, where even more bizarre things happen.

The monster is an interesting character. Like many of Mignola's other semi-human beings (Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Roger the Homunculus), Frankenstein's monster is unsure of who he is and what his purpose is in the world. Mignola follows the basics of Mary Shelly's original but has moved in his own direction far beyond that story. The monster grapples with the questions like whether he is good or evil, can he find redemption for the killing he has done, is he human or just a thing, etc. He isn't quite smart enough to come to any conclusions. But at least he is trying.

The story also lets Mignola explore more of his Lovecraftian mythology. Other people's interest in the monster is tied to the ancient "golden people," who lived in Hyperborea (the warm and inviting paradise of the remote past that is now the arctic region). The Hyperboreans created the ancient monsters that have been plaguing Hellboy's world (similar to Lovecraft's elder gods) and built colonies inside the earth. The modern-day scientists in the story are interested in the monster as a being brought to life through the ancient Vril energy that created the earth and was used by the Hyperboreans. It is interesting to see the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. mythology developed further.

The art is classic Mignola style: dark with plenty of blacks and lovingly drawn weird details. I love his art style so that by itself makes this book fun to read.

Recommended highly more for Hellboy fans than Frankenstein fans.

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