Pullbox Reviews: Frankenstein the Unconquered- The Monster gets a new spin in a Dark Fantasy setting

Main cover by Heather Vaughan

Frankenstein the Unconquered #1

500 years in the future, the arctic thaws and the Beast awakens to a bombed-out post-apocalypse as hideous and hostile as he is. Seeing an opportunity to reinvent himself and live the peaceful life he always wanted, the Beast attempts to settle down and live simply with villagers who are unafraid of his ghastly appearance. But when soldiers come to collect their due, violence is the only answer the Beast can come up with, and his dream of living simply is ripped away.

Having followed his warpath to its bloody conclusion, the Beast was exiled to the stars, his legacy tarnished, his family flayed before his eyes. For thirty years, the world has known an uneasy peace, but the Beast never stopped fighting for control and now, on the dawn of the 200th year, the sky explodes and the Beast, bathed in the cosmic blood of stars and comets, has returned. God help anyone who stands in his way.

With Mary Shelly’s original work in the public domain, the “Modern Prometheus” is ripe for new spins, now stories. I’ve seen a few come down the indie comic pipeline, and a couple of them have been pretty good. One thing most have had in common is their approach to the character of the monster himself. In general, he’s shown as a thoughtful, reflective individual in search of a place to belong. All of that’s fine, and the often self-named Adam works well as the tragic and reluctant hero. But if that’s what you’re looking for, you might want to think about hitting me up for the title of one of those other books.

As he’s referred to in Frankenstein the Unconquered, the Beast couldn’t care less about what you think of him. He’s less the brooding anti-hero and more the vengeful barbarian with anger control issues out of a Robert E. Howard story. Despite the risk of losing readers who insist on the notion that they have to connect, or even like, the main character of a story, I think writers Dalton Shannon & Wells Thompson made a good move. By taking a more difficult approach, going out of their way to make their Beast as unlikeable as possible instead of taking an easier track, they improve the odds of their book standing out.

Mary Landro, the artist on this twisted ride, leans hard into the brooding wasteland of Frankenstein the Unconquered. Her take on the Beast puts the emphasis on his patchwork design, and in retrospect is a pretty good reflection of his broken nature. Another thing that I really like in Landro’s work is that she seems to have a great handle on visual storytelling. After I read the issue, I went back through and ignored the narrative boxes to see how the comic would’ve played out with more of a “show, don’t tell” approach. I gotta tell ya, her panels hit all of the narrative beats and carry the story pretty well. Some of the action looks a little stiff, the figures almost too textbook or posed, but after checking her website it looks like her career as a comic artist is still pretty fresh. It’ll be cool to see how her work progresses as she moves up the ranks of comic book illustrators.

I’m running a little long here, but I have to give well-deserved props to Dahlia Maha & Nathan Kempf. Maha’s colors don’t just fill in the lines of Landro’s work, they nail the overall tone of the book. Frankenstein the Unconquered is a dark, Dark, DARK fantasy setting and Maha’s color palette reflects that. In the lettering, Kempf had his work cut out for him because there was a lot of it. A huge part of the story is told through the narrative boxes, and Kempf managed to squeeze it all in there without getting in the way. It’s a miracle of creative placement, and I have to wonder how he is at Tetris (kids, that’s a video game that your parents played on something called a “Game Boy”).

I’m a huge fan of all things Pulp, and it’s great to see comic creators starting with something old & familiar to do something new. Frankenstein the Unconquered #’s 1 & 2 are currently available through Kickstarter (fully funded & still early in the campaign), so hop on over and take a look at what it has to offer. It’s not for the faint-hearted, so if you’re looking for a hero you can really cheer for, this might not be your jam. But, if it’s gritty fantasy action you’re after, with a hard-hitting (and limb-pulling) protagonist, I think you could do a lot worse.

Final Score: 10/13

Variant Cover by the mighty Fell Hound
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