When Mike Mignola launches a new title people tend to pay attention. I mean really pay attention. The man has the largest independent shared universe of any creator that I know of and each month the separate titles produce stories at an extremely high quality. So yeah, when Mignola launches a new title people tend to pay attention and I’m one of those people. I haven’t been reading the Mignolaverse for very long so I was unaware of the fact that Frankenstein already made an appearance in Hellboy. I shouldn’t have been surprised considering Mignola (who’s solo on the writing details for this issue) has taken so many faucets of horror and brought them into one world in ways that others could never imagine.
To start with, this works. It works really well and even though it’s happening in the past that doesn’t stop its potential of being a part of the great scheme of things in the Mignolaverse. That’s the beauty of the share universe, the individual characters still have these tremendous story moments and while it doesn’t change the fact that Hellboy is dead and in hell, that also doesn’t stop the other characters from fighting their own battles with real consequences.
Frankenstein Underground begins in Mexico, 1956. Frankenstein stumbles into an old temple and finds a woman alone in the dark. He lunges forward making typical “Frankenstein” noises and falls over in front of the older woman bleeding from a gunshot wound. She’s not scared though, instead she touches and heals him and at the same time sees what happened to him. Frankenstein wakes up and they begin to talk and as they do we run through his life showing him running and being hunted constantly.
It’s around the second act and a hell of an opening that we meet the antagonist of the series. Again he could be plucked from the Mignolaverse’s history, but he was new to me. He is a terrible man and I hate him. That’s right, hate him. That’s how quickly Mignola made me turn on this guy. I won’t say how, but it’s safe to say that he’s a collector of sorts and frankly we all hate collectors like this.
What I love about Mignola’s writing is that he can make something simple truly tragic. It’s as if he looks at the scene which is just a simple exchange and says, “If I add this element… it makes this situation worse.” That’s his talent, to make a bad situation worse, but his follow up to that is to put characters in that situation refuse to give in. On one hand he is throwing everything at a character to break them and screaming, “Why won’t you break?” While at the same time finding a way for them to fight through the situation and find some reason for them to go on. I don’t know many other creators that can do that. That can try to snuff out hope while delivering it at the same time, but Mignola does it.
If you’ve read Baltimore then you’re familiar with Ben Stenbeck’s work. He’s an amazing talent and he and Mignola have a long work relationship so they gel together on this first issue instantly. They work together so well that you’ll forget that this is a first issue and just think, “Oh yeah I always read Frankenstein… oh wait no I don’t.”
Stenbeck has carved out a huge corner of the Mignoalverse already so adding Frankenstein is easy. His style is intact, but he’s grown and I say this as a compliment, but he’s a bit more Mignola with his art. The other difference is the style in which Dave Stewart colors the issue. It’s different from Baltimore and looks more in line with Hellboy in Hell. Visually it’s just delightful. You’ll never see a book that’s so damn dark, but look vibrant at the same time. Stewart adds that trademark look to the Mignolaverse.
There are some factors that go into you buying this issue. I’d love to believe that everyone should pick up Frankenstein Underground because it really is approachable for all types of readers, especially those looking for a foot into the Mignolaverse. The first question is, are you at a point that you can venture away from superhero comics? Are you at a point that a good story is a good story no matter the genre? Because here’s the sad part, there will be some people that read this book and just decide it’s not for them because it’s this or that or the other. They won’t see the beauty in the art of the meticulous pacing of the story and that’s their loss. For those of you that read comics for the storytelling and not the genre then rejoice because this is a good damn issue coming your way.