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All March (and, okay, a LITTLE bit into April just to make it a full 31 books) I’ll be reviewing different comic books by female creators, based on submissions from the actual creators of the comic books themselves. Here‘s a list of all the books featured so far this month.
We continue with Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens’ Madame Frankenstein #1-3
While I don’t necessarily recommend the film, I do have to give Boxing Helena credit for taking a novel approach in how to depict the lengths that a man will go to to control the woman of his dreams, even amputating her arms and legs and keeping her in a, well, box (Spoiler! It was all a dream).
I thought of that film when reading Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens’ Madame Frankenstein, which similarly examines those same lengths (only, I might add, they do it better).
The comic book is set in 1932 where (not quite Doctor) Vincent Krall attempts to bring the love of his life back to life, only in doing so, we see that what he really wants to do is to have control over her. If the original Frankenstein was about the folly of Doctor Victor Frankenstein in thinking that he could control the very force of life, then Madame Frankenstein is taking that same idea but applying it to a feminist perspective – the men of 1932 might think that they can, in fact, control the women in their lives, but not to the extent that Vincent tries in this story, as Vincent plays a twisted version of Professor Henry Higgins with “Madame Frankenstein,” dubbed Gail, as his Eliza Doolittle.
And, of course, when I say “the love of his life” earlier, that is not to say that the dead woman, Courtney, was actually in love with Vincent, as she very much was not. She was seeing Henry Lean, a hotheaded frat boy whose father took in Vincent after Vincent’s father, the man’s chauffeur, was killed during World War I.
The relationship in life between Vincent, Henry and Courtney drive much of the narrative. They are all, in their own way, terrible people, but at the same time, we see the hardships in their lives that made them the people they turned out to be and we can’t help but sympathize with them while also, of course, not necessarily agreeing with the choices that make (these relationships obviously are fleshed out over the span of the issues. The whole series will last seven issues).
Rich uses the setting of 1932 in a number of interesting ways, including World War I and the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The most fascinating usage of the time period though was the way that Rich used the real life “fairy” tale of Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young girls who became a bit of a media sensation with their photographs featuring young Frances surrounded by fairies. Arthur Conan Doyle, famed creator of Sherlock Holmes, was a spiritualist who wrote about the girls and made them stars (for a time, of course). In this story, Courtney is the little girl from the photographs, and that idea that magic might exist for real is something that drives Vincent in his quest to bring Courtney to live after she dies in a traffic accident (likely caused by Henry’s reckless driving). He is also a dope fiend, and he himself sees fairies that tell him to do things.
Here are a few sample pages from the first issue, where you can see Levens’ striking line work…
The attention to detail, including the design and the period clothing, is impressive, but so, too, is her sense of rhythm and spacing. The story flows beautifully through her layouts. You can feel the immensity of his actions in her pages. And, of course, she is great with character work. The facial expressions are vivid and detailed. I expect that we will be seeing a lot more of Levens’ work in comic books going forward.
The first issue of Madame Frankenstein comes out on May 7, 2014 in stores everywhere from Image Comics.
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