Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens’ “Madame Frankenstein” #2 finds Courtney/Gail being educated (and physically repaired) by an emotionally damaged and drug addicted Vincent. Events that began badly are poised to end even worse thanks to the emotional abuse Vincent is both deliberately and inadvertently heaping onto Gail.
The best thing Rich has going on for “Madame Frankenstein” is the way it feels like he mixes ideas together to create something with a bit more nuance and intrigue than just a typical Frankenstein-based tale. The book feels as much like “The Great Gatsby” as it does “Frankenstein” with its period setting and central female character that men project all their own emotions and desires onto. However, Rich has also weaved in an element of magic and real history through his use of The Cottingley Fairies myth. In 1920, the world was debating the existence of fairies thanks to two young girls that reported seeing them and offered up photograph evidence, which was later debunked. Rich gives this back story to his central character Courtney/Gail and then turns it on its ear by showing readers very real fairies. It’s an interesting mix of ideas and genres that has me fully intrigued about how Rich intends to tie together all these ideas.
Although the series is obviously a horror book, it’s a more subtle kind of horror, and it’s easy to forget that certain characters and situations are supposed to bother you. It’s one of the main hurdles for Rich and indeed for the series — as I read, I found myself annoyed that Courtney/Gail had so little agency and that all her character development was through the eyes of men. It helped to remind myself that these people manipulating her are the real monsters and therein lies the real horror — but I cannot say it was entirely enjoyable — whether as a horror book or otherwise. At this point, it feels like this story will be a much more satisfying read in one whole piece, rather than in single issues that leave a bad — if appropriately horrified — taste in your mouth.
Levens’ clean crisp artwork has a nice period feeling to it appropriate for the book, and she’s very smart about details. An early scene has Vincent, former frat brothers and fellow med students hanging out in a lounge and it’s pitch perfect in its execution. You can just feel the upper crush silver spoon voices of these characters thanks to well-considered character design, fashion and setting choices. Levens does a particularly good job with Courtney/Gail, giving her a few key moments in which you can feel her hatred for Vincent, her fear, her sorrow, her confusion. Since Courtney/Gail still doesn’t speak much, it’s up to Levens to give readers the best peek into what Courtney/Gail is really feeling and thinking as she is manipulated and brainwashed by Vincent. Levens presents a few key scenes and panels when Courtney/Gail’s feelings are abundantly clear and they set a foreboding and impressive tone for what is surely to come between Vincent and his “monster.”
Two issues in, Rich and Levens’ “Madame Frankenstein” mini-series is more interesting than I would have expected as it blends together some disparate ideas and genres to make a more fascinating whole. Still, as a reader, I yearn for some agency for Courtney/Gail and suspect the book will become more layered once it reaches that point.