REVIEW: ‘Modern Frankenstein,’ Issue #2

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Modern Frankenstein #2

Modern Frankenstein #2 is published by Heavy Metal, part of their Magma Comix imprint, written by Paul Cornell, with art by Emma Vieceli. The colours are by Pippa Bowland, and the letterer is Simon Bowland. 

Talented medical student Dr Elizabeth Cleve is introduced to one of her teachers, the intoxicating but strange Dr James Frankenstein. Warned by another mentor, Cleve starts to become more interested in Frankenstein’s seemingly impossible accomplishments. When Elizabeth’s frail mother suffers a heart attack, the surgeon manages to fix her heart and dementia. Indebted to the man, Frankenstein’s trust in the young resident grows. He brings her into his private wing, revealing the secret to his success. Unethical and radical experiments take place within this part of the hospital. Live test subjects are just one of these, where a sexual predator’s brain is open to tampering whilst the person is still wide awake.

Within this issue, Elizabeth starts work within the secretive Bentan-Lockley wing. This decision instantly separates her from her other mentors. Elizabeth throws herself entirely into the projects that Frankenstein has set: ambitious vaccines and cures for ailments that seem insurmountable. And for many of these, the test subject, Raxton, is the key guinea pig. As the two doctors get deeper into their mission, they also start to get deeper into each other too…

The plot is beautifully paced. It moves slowly as the lead character sinks further into the experiments, taking the reader into this new aspect of the hospital drama. The larger concepts of the series are explored within Modern Frankenstein #2, including the particular experiments Frankenstein and Cleve are performing. The intensity of the previous issue came from the medical emergency. In this issue, the intensity comes from a different and more adult source. The execution of the scene was surprising and changed the direction of the comic massively.

The cast is still very small, allowing for an in-depth exploration of the two main characters. Frankenstein has rendered Dr Cleve entirely enchanted by every fibre of his being, and it is getting stronger by the page. Cleve’s fascination appeared to stem from curiosity towards his cold demeanour and fantastic knowledge within the first issue. But now, it is absolute loyalty and has even branched into a physical longing. She longs for positive reinforcement from her mentor, openly admitting to having a “praise kink” regarding him. 

Modern Frankenstein #2 is a very sexual issue. The scenes and concepts are addressed tastefully by Cornell, used to highlight the power Frankenstein has over Cleve instead of just including it for glorification. Power dynamics have been important within Frankenstein adaptations in the past, and a sexual interpretation of that theme is actually a very modern inclusion.  

As for the title character, Frankenstein has some captivating development. He was a very cold being in the first issue, with brief glimpses of affection towards Elizabeth and his devotion to his profession. Within this issue though, more of his moral compass is revealed. As he experiments on a human, though a reprehensible one, the word evil is brought up multiple times. James doesn’t see himself as evil but possibly understands how others may view him as such. There’s a beautiful eloquence to his words, enticing the reader almost just as much as he does his student. 

The art continues to be gorgeous. The creepy elements of the series resurface through what is being performed on Raxton. Not only does Vieceli show the aftermaths of the trials on his visible brain matter, but the artist’s manipulation of his facial expressions is terrifying. The widened mouth and eyes are haunting. Additionally, the sexual aspects of the comic showcase Vieceli’s masterful understanding of anatomy. Any nude scenes reveal passion and beauty without being seedy or uncomfortable.

Bowland’s colours are again well-fitted for the cleanliness of the hospital. The textures are very smooth and clean, hinting at how pristine Frankenstein’s lair is. The colourist’s use of shadows is brilliant as they have clearly been studied and carefully implemented. Occasionally Bowland resorts to using intricate and stunning designs in the background of panels. These are unobtrusive but make the foreground stand out even more. 

The letters are efficient and fit the comic well. Bowland places the large amount of dialogue in digestible and easy-to-follow word balloons.

Modern Frankenstein #2 continues to be fascinating. Cornell brilliantly tells a story that centres mostly around two characters and the dynamic between them. The writer’s exploration of power and intimate connections are overpoweringly intense at times, but it makes the reader want to keep reading. As Drs Frankenstein and Cleve’s experiments get bigger and their relationship gets closer, the pressure will only increase. The art team displays the chemistry between the main characters superbly.

Modern Frankenstein #2 is available where comics are sold.

Modern Frankenstein #2
5

TL;DR

Modern Frankenstein #2 continues to be fascinating. Cornell brilliantly tells a story that centres mostly around two characters and the dynamic between them. The writer’s exploration of power and intimate connections are overpoweringly intense at times, but it makes the reader want to keep reading. As Drs Frankenstein and Cleve’s experiments get bigger and their relationship gets closer, the pressure will only increase. The art team displays the chemistry between the main characters superbly.