Mike Mignola is a masterful storyteller. That’s not an exaggeration, it’s just a fact at this point. His ability to make the reader care about his characters is uncanny. After just one issue I became invested in a character that’s devoured in this issue. I feel for this character, I feel terrible for her and I even feel for the creature that had an obvious crush on her. Sure they parallel Quasimodo and Esmeralda (probably wrong on that one), but what little I know about their situation touched me. That’s what Mignola does, he gets you with real emotions (he and his artists that is). Even in this supernatural setting he finds a way for the reader to relate to the characters. This continues as we go back to Frankenstein who has fallen through the temple to an underground… well world. After drinking from a body of water he’s pulled into the water by an octi-crab looking thing. It basically has a crab shell, but octopus tentacles. The creature tries to make a meal of Frankenstein, but ends up becoming a meal to another creature. Frankenstein swims to the top and is thrust into more battles of survival until some Orc looking creatures come along and capture him.
During this though is a great narration from Frankenstein and part of it comes from a flashback hundreds of years earlier. He came upon a church and begs for mercy, but the Priest finds him and begins attacking him unprovoked. The priest casts a curse upon Frankenstein and in a clever bit of writing we see the curse come true through in the present storyline.
It’s not explicitly spelled out to us what’s going on in the story. The Orcish creatures don’t talk, they don’t explain why they’re taking prisoners or where they’re taking them to. Frankly we don’t need to know because the purpose is that narration from the Priest. It’s very much a flashback to what Frankenstein is thinking about as he fights for his life yet again.
And it puts his life in perspective. He’s been on the run every single day of his life unless he was being held captive by someone. He turns to God and the church for just a moment of mercy and instead he’s beaten and cast out. Just imagine how frustrating his life has been. That’s Mignola’s intention, to make you see just how difficult Frankenstein’s life has been and he succeeds. Oh how I wanted that Priest to leave him be or at the very least show compassion. How I wanted him to have just a moment of rest inside a building that so many find to be a sanctuary. But it didn’t happen.
All of this is for not without Ben Stenbeck’s artwork. I thought I would miss him on Baltimore, but I’m so glad to have him on Frankenstein Underground (a title that makes sense after this issue). His work here is deep and his ability as a storyteller has grown. The final pages are all images without any dialogue except for the Priest’s narration. While the narration is strong the art carries the story. Stenbeck’s artwork is powerful and if it didn’t compliment the narration the way it does then the narration wouldn’t even matter.
It’s easy to say that I’m giving this a high score because it’s Mignola. He’s an iconic creator and I’m sure there are reviewers out there just floating him a score because they don’t want to go against his fan base. Well that’s not the case here. This work deserves the score it’s gotten because Mignola and Stenbeck are every bit as passionate about it as their first collaboration years ago. This is a great follow-up issue and after reading several disappointing follow-up issues lately it just serves as a reminder to how Mignola became an iconic creator… he doesn’t phone shit in. To have a creator owned universe as big and in-depth as Mignola’s and still care about it, that’s just pure passion and frankly we need more of that in the comic industry.