Thursday, February 02, 2017

Frankenstein Underground by Mike Mignola, Ben Stenbeck, and Dave Stewart

The Hellboy universe has been throwing off sidebar material for almost as long as it's existed, with BPRD and Abe Sapien leading the charge. But some sidebars are much further off to the side, if you know what I mean -- say, something like Sledgehammer 44 from a couple of years back -- and end up feeling more like riffs on the same idea than parts of the same story.

And, hey! Here's another one: Frankenstein Underground tells the further adventures of Frankenstein's Monster in the Hellboy universe, after Hellboy punched him free from the clutches of a mad scientist in Mexico in the 1950s. It's written by Mignola, drawn by Ben Stenbeck, and colored by Dave Stewart [1] -- very much a core team for this universe.

But FU -- that acronym is not really appropriate, but it amuses me, so that's how I'll refer to it -- is pretty close to a generic Mignola story. The Monster flees one mad scientist who wants to control his special powers for nefarious purposes, finds himself in a vast, mysterious underground realm, where he's taken in by what turns out to be another mad scientist who wants to control his special powers for nefarious purposes, before punching a lot of things to cause destruction and the defeat of a nasty supernatural creature from beyond our world.

It's fun to read, but there is a faint sense of a Mignola Mad-Libs generator running in the background somewhere, churning out variations of the same ideas over an over again and coming out this time with a particularly thin rendition. There is nothing at all wrong with FU, but as one more book on top of a very large stack, it's not particularly impressive. This is the Mignola book to read when you've run out of all of the other ones and still want something new, like listening to a scratchy audience-taped Grateful Dead bootleg because you want one more hit of your favorite thing.

[1] I think I've been neglecting colorist credits a lot of the time, and frankly I don't think I'm going to be consistent about it. But Stewart is so much part of the Hellboy gestalt that he really deserves to be included as a full partner.

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