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31 Days of Seven Soldiers, Day 24 – Frankenstein #2

Hey, it’s Christmas!  What better way to celebrate than with an ugly monster who’s really a hero wreaking havoc on another planet while chasing down a deranged slaver?  Nothing says Christmas more, except for maybe Ralphie actually shooting his eye out!

Would I SPOIL things on Christmas?  Of course I would!  So watch out! SPOILERS everywhere in this post!

I can’t help putting Harry Callahan’s voice in Frankenstein’s mouth on this cover.  “Do you feel lucky, Melmoth?  Well … do ya?”

12-25-2006 02;21;40PM.JPG

I’m enjoying the different tones of the narration throughout the saga.  This one is all about bombast, and it begins with a full page of Frankenstein riding some strange steed over an alien landscape and the narration: “First over the horizon comes fear.  And at its heels, terror.”  This refers to the two moons of Mars, Phobos (“fear”) and Deimos (“panic”).  We turn the page and get the two-page splash, with the narration: “The flesh-eating horses of Mars are restless.”  Frankenstein rides through what appears to be an abandoned city, with a large sculpture of a head that looks very much like J’onn J’onzz near him.  Some of the spires in the city are bisected, and the tips are floating, which is kind of strange.  There are also three glowing shapes floating in the sky above Frankenstein.  Well, that’s weird.

Frankenstein stops his ride by a Mars NASA lander and puzzles things out.  He contemplates missing children, the theft of one hundred space suits from the Smithsonian, an SOS from space, and a familiar, sulfurous spore leading to Mars.  On the lander is the grafitti “Melmoth lives,” which confirms what Frankenstein has guessed: Melmoth is on Mars with missing children.  According to the annotations, this is Viking I, which landed on the “Plains of Gold.”  Which makes sense.  Frankenstein camps for the night, and then rides out again!  He sees the majestic remnants of J’onn’s culture, and then finds the gold mines where Melmoth runs his little slaving empire.  He enters, determined to kill Melmoth once and for all!

Down in the mines, Melmoth is showing people around.  He mentions that the Puritans of Limbo Town were fiercer than he planned for, a reference to the fourth issue of Klarion.  He is also bandaged completely, because he was pretty much immolated by Klarion.  Morrison could be evoking anyone from the Invisible Man to DC’s Unknown Soldier with the swaddling, but I’ll leave it to the experts to sort out!  Klarion, you’ll recall, bit off his left arm, which is still missing.  He carries a witch brand from Limbo Town and is talking to Mr. Silencio, whom we remember was shown in Klarion #3 and was also engaged in some sort of East Coast-West Coast gang war with Vincenzo to Undying Don (which, of course, shouldn’t remind anyone of the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop war, should it?).  Silencio is freaked out by the mines, and says that his father claims that Melmoth is an immortal demon.  Melmoth gives his secret origin: Gloriana Tenebrae dumped his sorry ass when Camelot fell and left him “to walk home through the long centuries.”  He was kept alive by “magic and bloody-minded rage.”  He heard of Slaughter Swamp and found that the Undry Cauldron was there, giving life to a village of drowned corpses.  He had his blood drained and replaced by the waters of the cauldron.  He found the cauldron, obviously, in 1590.  It came there when Justine threw it into the time stream of Castle Revolving in Shining Knight #1.  He made the beast with two backs with all the hot repressed Puritan women and moved on, and the cauldron was lost again, presumably, until it came into possession of Vincenzo.  The boy in the background of all these panels, by the way, is Billy Beezer, who has recently joined the other young men in the mines.  I assume he uses his pick axe so violently and causes a bit of a cave-in because he’s so angry at Melmoth – he gives him the ol’ stink-eye as Melmoth passes by.  Melmoth says that he has built an army of his own to fight Gloriana, and he has become fond of mankind, so he’s willing to fight for them.  Of course, his plans for mankind, however “more benevolent,” are still pretty awful, but I guess it’s the lesser of two evils!  Silencio asks him how he plans to finance the war, and Melmoth shows him the inner chamber of the mines, which is filled with “more gold than there’s ever been.”  The floor of the chamber looks suspiciously like Superman’s crest – it’s a five-sided figure with the point downward.  I suppose I’m reading too much into it.  As Melmoth is about to break into the mine (which is, I’m sure, supposed to remind us of an Egyptian tomb, what with the statues “guarding” the tomb, the hieroglyphics on the wall, and the booby traps), Frankenstein shows up and throws a pick axe into his back.  That Frankenstein – nothing subtle about him!

Frankenstein does some big-time damage to Melmoth’s men (one thing Morrison can’t escape, despite his excellence as a writer, and that’s the sad fate of almost every flunky who ever shows up in fiction, whether it’s comics or the movies or television).  He recognizes Billy Beezer, although we’re not sure how, and tells him that his friends are waiting for him on the other side of the Erdel gate where he found them.  The “friend” are the Deviants, Billy’s gang from Klarion #3, one of whom looks a lot like Frankenstein.  We have to assume that Frankenstein got to Mars through the Erdel gate, but how did he get to Melmoth’s place?  Did he follow the “spore” that is mentioned earlier this issue?  If so, he has a powerful nose, smelling something across deep space like that.  How did he activate the Erdel gate?  The annotations say that Frankenstein must have arrived on the scene right when Billy went through and used its opening to get to Mars, but that makes no sense.  Melmoth was right there when Billy went through, so Frakenstein could have confronted him then.  In between Billy’s abduction to Mars and this issue, Melmoth went to Limbo Town.  Frankenstein would not have gone to Mars unless Melmoth was there, right?  Maybe he went there for the missing children, but it seems like he puts all the clues together, deduces that Melmoth is on Mars, and then went there.  So who opened the Erdel gate?  Does Frankenstein know how to do it?

Anyway, Melmoth tells Frankenstein he knows the truth of his creation: in 1816, Victor Frakenstein came to him, seeking the secret of life.  Frankenstein gave Melmoth some “scientific secrets” (one wonders what they were!) and Melmoth gave him some of his precious, undying blood, which, as we know, isn’t really blood but the water of the cauldron.  This, not lightning, gave Frankenstein’s monster life.  He is, in actuality, a Grundy, made for “heavy lifting.”  Suddenly the deus ex machina comes to the rescue, in the form of “tattered macrophages,” which are “grave protectors, programmed to devour all profane living flesh.”  Billy knocks the witch brand from his hand, which means he can no longer control Frankenstein (remember, that’s how the Puritans control the Grundys).  The tomb’s doors start to close, and everyone runs for it.  Outside the mine, Silencio is very grateful to Frankenstein for saving his life, but Frankenstein is having none of it.  One of the flesh-eating horses quickly puts Silencio out of his misery.  Melmoth (with the axe still sticking out of his back) tells Frankenstein he’s his real father, if you want to get technical, and Frankenstein decides this is a good enough reason to feed Melmoth to the horses.  Which, as he puts it, is kind of icky, because once Melmoth goes through their systems, he’ll still be conscious, even though he’ll be horse dung.  Charming.  Melmoth’s last words remind him that he could have saved mankind from Gloriana, but now there will be a curse on Frankenstein for what he’s done.  Frankenstein ponders this at he leads the children back to Earth, like some monstrous Pied Piper.

As is the case with the second batch of these mini-series, Morrison, it seems, is pushing the plot along far more than in the first batch, which means the development of the grand themes gets pushed to the background.  That’s not to say it’s not there, but it’s muted a bit.  The nature of the characters also inhibits him.  Mister Miracle continues to be a New Gods story, which means it fits into the overall epic rather awkwardly.  Bulleteer is about a woman who explicitly does NOT want to be a superhero, which makes the theme of growing up through heroism a bit less powerful.  Frankenstein, meanwhile, appears to be about a monster who knows exactly what he is and what he needs to do.  It’s not that Frankenstein is an unfeeling monster, but he’s apparently already gone through the trials that the others are going through and come out far more confident than they are.  Where can the character development come from?

And then he “kills” Melmoth.  This development gives Frankenstein something to consider.  As the narration states: “The monster feels the unaccustomed chill as the howling winds of Mars coax voices and sly, mocking laughter from corroded pylons and haunted tunnels.  ‘Too late, Frankenstein,’ they seem to say.  ‘What’s done can never be undone.’”  Frankenstein has saved humanity from the slave pits of Melmoth, but he doesn’t necessarily know that.  All he knows is that his private vendetta may have cost humanity its chance to defeat the Sheeda.  His mission goes from finding and destroying Melmoth to atoning for that act.  He doesn’t whine about it, either, he just gets about to doing it.  In this way, Frankenstein acts as a contrast to most of the other Seven Soldiers.  He and Justine are really the only ones who simply go about their business, and even the Shining Knight experiences a lot of self-doubt.  Frankenstein is shown as the apotheosis of heroism, because he has made his choices and he lives with them.  He doesn’t allow doubt to enter into it.  He wants revenge on Melmoth; he gets it.  If that leads to something worse, then he will deal with that.  The other Soldiers, we have seen, get caught up in their emotions, and it often cripples them until something external spurs them into action.  Frankenstein, perhaps because he is an artificial creation, does not have those kinds of problems.  He certainly has emotions, but he doesn’t let them interfere with what needs to be done.  He has a moral compass, and follows it even to the plains of Mars.  Frankenstein helps Morrison highlight the moral journey the other Seven Soldiers must make, because he has already made it.

We have seen throughout the importance of legend to the saga, and that is, of course, evident in a title named Frankenstein.  Frankenstein comes to the tomb where Melmoth is digging for gold, and the narration speaks of “shapeshifting toad emperors, crowned with algae, iron and gold,” as well as “sorceror kings of aboriginal Mars.”  These legendary kings are gone, but their fingerprints remain.  What this issue does is open up the possibility that the Sheeda themselves harvested Mars those long years ago – Melmoth is, after all, intimately familiar with the tombs.  Why not?  At the point in the future from which the Sheeda come, they certainly have the technology to attack Mars as well.  Frankenstein himself is a legend, and the implication throughout the epic is that the Sheeda must be countered by legendary figures – another reason why Frankenstein can be seen as the template for the other soldiers, because he’s already a legend.  As the most uncomplicated of the Seven Soldiers, he is the most legendary – we can psychoanalyze mythological characters all we want, but they tend to be archetypes, and therefore more uncomplicated.

Once Frankenstein completes his mission, we see in later issues that he begins another mission, which is the pattern of these series – the first two issues seem to tell a story, and the final two issues tell a slightly different one.  Frankenstein hasn’t really grown all that much, but that’s okay – neither did many of the other soldiers in their first two issues.  We’ll see how that changes when we return to this series.

Naturally, there are annotations, where you can find out about Yves Tanguy, among other interesting things.  And that’s all for the links this time!  Of course, if you know of any, feel free to let me know!

Next time: Back to Shilo Norman, as he faces a new rival!

2 Comments

Melmoth (with the axe still sticking out of his back) tells Frankenstein he’s his real father, if you want to get technical, and Frankenstein decides this is a good enough reason to feed Melmoth to the horses. Which, as he puts it, is kind of icky, because once Melmoth goes through their systems, he’ll still be conscious, even though he’ll be horse dung. Charming. Melmoth’s last words remind him that he could have saved mankind from Gloriana, but now there will be a curse on Frankenstein for what he’s done

I think Morrison is playing with an additional legendary trope here. The slaying of a father by his son is one of the oldest myths, and always carries with it a heavy curse. There is something very Oedipal here, and maybe that is an additional element of the curse that Frankenstein must face.

you mentioned that the sheeda are possibly capable of destroying other planets besides earth. I am not familiar with the current origin of the Martian Manhunter, but, is it possible that mars was decimated by the sheeda all those years ago? Is it possible?

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