Madame Frankenstein #1
Written by Jamie S. Rich
Illustrated by Megan Levens
Published by Image Comics
Female Frankenstein’s Monster Lives Up to Shelley’s Original
Any work of literature attempting to capitalize on Mary Shelley’s seminal novel of gothic horror has a great deal to live up to. More often than not, modern attempts to rework Shelley’s classic fall short by a wide margin – take a look at the recent film adaptation of I, Frankenstein for proof. However, sometimes an author or an artist (or in this case, both) will come along and create something worthy enough to carry the “Frankenstein” moniker in its title. Madame Frankenstein, the creation of the Levens & Rich team, lives up to its namesake. In issue one, at least.
The story begins with a brief introduction to Courtney Bow as she meets Doctor Vincent Krall at an outdoor dinner party. Thankfully, Rich only spends one page at the dinner party before thrusting readers into the dark, subterranean depths of the typical mad scientist laboratory, complete with high-voltage gizmos. The transition is abrupt and without explanation, but this serves to build tension and it leaves the reader with a desire to read on to see what will happen next. Krall and his assistant – a decidedly un-Igor-like figure – attach diodes to a pieced-together female corpse and, with the expected amount of fireworks, bring the creature to life; however, Dr. Krall manages to give his creation a tender kiss on her lips before giving her the spark of life. The face of this creature, by the way, bears a striking resemblance to Miss Bow, who, via a series of brief flashbacks, is seen dying in a car accident. As the creature emerges from her vat, Dr. Krall cries out, “She lives! She lives!” This is in stark contrast to Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein who is repulsed by his creation and whom he refers to as either “it” or “creature.” Rich seems to be building a more nurturing relationship between creator and creation in Madame Frankenstein, but only time will tell. Without giving too much away (this is a major plot point for issue one), there is another nod towards both Shelley’s Frankenstein and its several movie adaptations – one hint: fire. Between the creature’s birth and the fire incident there is a strange interlude involving Krall and some tiny fairies that, at this point, defy explanation. As strange as it is, it somehow fits, but hopefully Rich will shed some light on this mystery later in the series. Overall, the script is well-paced and pays homage to Shelley while only borrowing what is needed from her novel to keep it within the realm of the Frankenstein theme. As good as the script is, though, the art is even better.
The artwork easily lives up to the quality of the script. Levens deserves high praise for her monochromatic brilliance. Each panel is full of stark contrasts that serve to highlight the gothic theme of this book. Each character is nicely rendered, but Dr. Krall’s creature is truly a thing of beauty. Never has a Frankenstein’s monster looked this appealing to the eye. Levens’ skill is also evident in the background of each panel. The high-voltage gizmos and sheet-draped corpses everyone has come to expect in a Frankenstein-themed book are in ample evidence, but, instead of feeling like tired old tropes, they come across more like old friends who look much better than the memories they inspired.
Levens’ art and Rich’s script complement each other nicely and together they make the first issue of Madame Frankenstein worthy of carrying on the legacy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. However, the real test for the duo will be in carrying this excellence forward through the remaining six issues of the series.
– Merriell Moyer