Dark Horse Preview: Frankenstein Underground #1

Any opportunity to check out Mike Mignola’s work pre-publication is like getting a bottle of fine bourbon on Christmas day…also, that bottle has been padded with dollar bills instead of packing peanuts.  Not trying to rub it in, just really excited.

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It’s happened again.  I’ve been blessed by Dark Horse Comics with an early look at a new five-issue miniseries.  Mike Mignola’s Frankenstein Underground begins next week.   As the Great Old Ones of Milwaukee, Oregon have commanded, this review is short and spoiler-free.

Frankenstein Underground is a different take on Frankenstein’s monster to be sure: the first issue kicks off in Mexico during the 1950s.  There are glimpses of what Frankenstein’s now very long-lived monster has endured since his creation.  But despite the new settings and (relatively) modern update, Mignola’s story looks like it will be keeping to the themes of Shelley’s original novel: namely the treatment of the less fortunate, what it means to be human and the hubris of humankind.  These are evident both visually and from the Monster’s narrative as we, the readers, catch up on his current predicament.

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It’s worth mentioning that Doctor Frankenstein himself is absent from the story at its outset.  Not a spoiler, I hope, but it’s unclear whether the titular “Frankenstein” in Frankenstein Underground refers to the scientist or his creation, and it’s eating at me.  That people ever erroneously refer to the creature as “Frankenstein” (instead of, you know, Frankenstein’s monster!) makes me cringe.  On the other hand, I have unfailing faith in Mike Mignola not to do that.  Shame on me for even considering the possibility.  At any rate, there’s still time to bring in the Icarus of Inventors (I’m coining that phrase, right now!), if only in retrospect.  Fingers crossed?

As for the overall fit and aesthetic of this miniseries into Mignola’s larger universe, Frankenstein Underground is set well within the realm of his other stories.  If this first issue is any indication, we should be seeing more connections to Mignola’s other characters and events in the next four issues.  Depending on how long you’ve been reading Hellboy and/or B.P.R.D., you may even recognize a scene in this issue from the early Hellboy years, as well as some characters from one or two B.P.R.D. arcs.  I’m tempted to call these connections Easter eggs, but they are in the story for more meaningful reasons than fanfare.  We’ll just have to wait and see whether that will play out more in the future.

I’m not one for artistic critiques, but the art and colors in Underground mesh with Mignola’s larger body of work, too.  Ben Stenbeck’s art is reminiscent of Mignola’s hard lines and deep shading, but Stenbeck’s got a bit lighter touch, making his characters a tad easier on the eyes than expected.  Long and short, the characters in Frankenstein Underground fit right into Hellboy and company’s rogues gallery and this is something I can’t wait to dive into.

Mike Mignola’s maiden issue Frankenstein Underground will hit comic shops on Wednesday, March 18th.

Images from Dark Horse Comics.

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