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Mignolaversity: “Frankenstein: New World” #3

By and | November 16th, 2022
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In “Frankenstein: New World” #3, Mike Mignola, Thomas Sniegoski, Christopher Golden, and Peter Bergting have created a tale that evokes the past, drawing upon the cyclical narrative of Ragnarok. The world is different and yet in many ways still the same, and as Frankenstein and Lilja explore and the canvas of the tale grows ever larger, our reviewers are left wondering whether this truly is the penultimate chapter of this story at all. . .

Written by Mike Mignola, Thomas Sniegoski, and Christopher Golden
Illustrated by Peter Bergting
Colored by Michelle Madsen
Lettered by Clem Robins

Having made contact with some of the new world’s mysterious inhabitants, Frank and Lilja continue their search for the “Star Lady.” But the danger they’re trying to prevent has already caught their scent—literally—and now it’s a race for what could be the fate of the reborn world.

James Dowling: In the tradition of starting at the start, I absolutely adored the cover to this month’s issue. It’s hard for Bergting to top the work he pulled off on “Frankenstein: New World” #2’s cover, which was spectacular, but this brings a really cool, different quality to what we’ve had so far. There’s some great creature design on display, some sturdy posing that feels like it’s ripped from a metal album cover, and a good progression from past issues. (As we’ve mentioned in our last review, there has been a nice and subtle progression from cover to cover.)

It really feels like the Hellboy Universe has been consistently getting some of the best covers in comics at the moment, and there is so much good stuff out there right now.

Mark Tweedale: I definitely agree there. Whenever I get the monthly solicitations and accompanying covers, I always have to resist the urge to immediately post them all just so I can ramble about them. Dark Horse has currently got an Art of Peter Bergting book in the works, and if you’ve seen some of the preview pages inside, you’re probably wondering how they let Bergting just do interior art for so long. His covers are nothing short of astounding. Anyway, that’s certainly changed now that he’s done covers for “Tales from the Outerverse” and “Frankenstein.”

James: Yeah, I hope he has a chance to do more covers, even if he isn’t doing interiors, especially if it means he can keep doing ‘New World’ books. As we’ve said in the past, a lot of this new setting feels tied to his style now.

Mark: That’s a good point. I could see other artists doing more stories in the New World, but it’d be a nice touch if those stories had Bergting covers.

Anyway, let’s dive into the comic itself. This issue begins with Murk, and I guess this is kind of mildly spoilery, but we don’t see him again for the rest of this issue. He’s the lurking threat of the series and yet so far he’s been limited to merely being drawn towards something. When you brought up the idea of other stories in the New World, I can’t help but wonder if Murk’s purpose is even tied to the core “Frankenstein: New World” storyline. Is this simply a parallel story that will continue to evolve in other books?

He’s been all build-up so far, and if he appears in issue #4 to be immediately dispensed with, I don’t think that would feel satisfying. I’m starting to look at this book as something potentially less standalone than I first thought. And that makes sense—why introduce such a fascinating and expansive world only to spend a handful of issues in it?

James: Yeah, I definitely thought he was a little more ‘monster of the week’ at the start of this book, but it seems like the current assignment across the Hellboy books is about making new villains to get some mileage, and a creature as infectious as Murk feels like somebody who could start small and grow as a threat from there. I’m excited for it.

Mark: It’s just curious for his story to be so detached from Frankenstein and Lilja’s in the penultimate issue.

Continued below

But let’s set that aside for now. I wanted to talk a little about the frog people, because I’ve been enjoying what’s been going on with them in terms of their visuals. We’ve seen Mignola’s take on them in “B.P.R.D.: The Devil You Know” and Laurence Campbell’s in “The Sword of Hyperborea,” which seemed pretty much the same, but then Bergting had his frog people which are different, and now in this issue he introduces yet another frog people. So the people of the New World are seemingly going to be much more diverse than humans are.

And I like that they simply trusted us to get that. They presented us with different frog people and that was it. It does make me wonder if they are all Abe Sapien’s descendants though. Are some perhaps the descendants of Gustav Strobl? Especially since when we look back at the way both died, their corpses sinking to the bottom of the sea, it’s not hard to imagine Strobl’s body undergoing a similar gestation phase.

James: That’s a really cool concept. I feel like if we got a book more centered on them as a people fully then there’s a good chance they would bring back that dichotomy between Abe and Strobl. He was introduced in “Witchfinder” too, so maybe that’s the place to do it. That said, it could be too easy then to just cut them into ‘good frogs’ and ‘bad frogs,’ which feels a bit cheap. Obviously, there’s a fairytale quality to these stories when compared to the stories set in our contemporary period, but that would arguably be too simplistic.

Mark: I would hope they wouldn’t go the “good frogs/bad frogs” route. But I could see it as a way for the magics that Strobl tapped into during the last few issues of “Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible” making it into the New World.

James: Speaking of enduring story elements, did you also feel like this issue did a lot to evoke the start of “Hellboy: Seed of Destruction?” There’s an explorer who travels with friends to a city of the old world and is the only one to return, but does so driven sick and mad by a god who is seemingly heralding the start of a new plague. If it’s intentional it makes sense; Ragnarok goes in circles.

Mark: I did get that feeling, yes, though it was not conscious. Now that you point it out, I can see where that was coming from. There’s a lot in here that feels like that first awakening of Sadu-Hem. Shall we dive into spoilers?

James: Certainly, I think as these books keep going in the aftermath of ‘Devil You Know,’ we’re going to see more stories start to have an uncanny rhyme to them, and I’d say that’s almost more interesting when you don’t notice it entirely. Afterall, we’ve essentially seen three ‘cycles’ of ragnarok at this stage, in various forms. Obviously there was the apocalypse at the end of “B.P.R.D.,” but “Hellboy: The Bones of Giant” canonized that original Norse Ragnarok (which, while closer to something like the death of the Fae in England, still was showing how puzzle pieces from the older world emerge in what comes after), and now the beginnings of that circle turning again in the New World.

Mark: Plus there was the fall of the Hyperboreans which could’ve been a Ragnarok-like event too.

James: Yeah, there’s a great question about whether that’s prehistoric, or a different history altogether. Still, speaking of cycles, I was obsessed with seeing the little flashes of Gall Dennar and Ted Howards when Frankenstein fought using the Sword of Hyperborea for the first time. It’s a weapon that’s inextricable from its history, and having those frenetic cut-aways when it’s used both reinforces that, and plays into the chaos of the scene so neatly.

It also makes the scene where Lilja picks it up for the first time very heavy with gravitas, and I think you would get the hints of that even if you had only a passing familiarity with it.

Continued below

Mark: Yeah, all the stuff with the sword in this issue was awesome. Frankenstein fighting the frogs while channeling Gall Dennar and Ted Howards was so good. Dramatic enough without veering into fan service. But Lilja taking up the sword was an unexpected turn and I’m thrilled to see where this development goes.

James: Earlier, you brought up how we’re only one issue from the end (which definitely snuck up on me) and yet there’s a lot of immediate capital P Plot to wrap up here—the ‘Star Lady’, Frankenstein inevitably losing the Sword of Hyperborea, some sort of climax between Murk and Frankenstein, Lilja’s story arc, and now this evil god Hem-Ka-Nu. But it also feels like each of our characters are about two small hops from their satisfying character conclusions, so do you think this book can satisfyingly wrap up in one more issue?

Mark: It does seem like any final issue trying to put a bow on all these plotlines would need to be considerably longer than twenty pages. I expect it’ll focus in on just some core threads. I think there’s going to be another Frankenstein story at some point, so it will likely wrap up his story, but maybe everyone else—Lilja, the frog people, Murk, the Star Lady—are just at the beginning of their story.

James: Across some recent Mignola books we’ve reviewed together, namely “Young Hellboy” and “The Sword of Hyperborea” it’s felt at times like, there’s a rush brought on by the miniseries format. It’s worked so well for all these books in the past, but there’s some more chafing now, like these are stories made to start introducing concepts again, rather than leading to a grand conclusion, and they can fit all that expansion into a streamlined plot.

Mark: I must admit, I find the four-issue miniseries format a bit too restrictive and I’d like to see the Hellboy Universe return to five and six-issue minis again. In Mignola’s decompressed approach to story, where atmosphere can often take the lead, that aspect doesn’t get the space it needs as often anymore, and I find that we just get past all the establishing material and then the story has to wrap up.

That said, I think “Frankenstein: New World” has struck that balance well—especially in the scenes with Murk or Frakenstein and Lilja together. It did so by limiting its scope though. Despite delving into the New World, this feels like the first step in a much larger journey.

James: I keep forgetting how much this book is storming ahead comparatively, but it’s hard to see how ‘on rails’ this book is because the art team just keep it feeling so wide. Plus, to its credit, that atmosphere is still oozing from the title, the last two issues have opened on great showcases of the New World ecosystem. But yeah, it’s hard to feel like you’re being force-fed a story when you’re exploring a world as lush with color as Michelle Madsen’s.

Mark: Madsen continues to impress in this series. At this point I think she and Bergting have worked together on something like seven trades worth of material, and that shows in ‘New World.’ She walks this line of everything being familiar enough to the rest of the Hellboy Universe, but also different enough that it feels otherworldly. You can see that at work in moments like the night attack on the village that has these glowing blue mushrooms off to the side.

James: Yeah, they’re in pretty perfect lockstep.

Overall, this was a consistently strong issue in a consistently strong series. Is there always enough breathing room for the ideas at play here? Not necessarily, but maybe that’s what keeps this adventure feeling so frenetic. Plus, it’s not fair reviewing an issue based on whether or not I think I’ll like what comes after. This issue puts the last few pieces on the board and looks good doing it, as Frankenstein steps closer and closer to what seems to be a definitive portrait of him. For the third issue in a row from me, it’s an 8.

Mark: There’s a religious aspect introduced in this issue that I found interesting, especially Frankenstein’s reaction to it. There’s not really enough in the issue for me to comment much more than that about it, but it introduces yet another thing for issue #4 to manage. I look at all their pieces on the board here and I am interested in them all. The moments with the Hyperborean Sword were both scene stealers. I think the best word to describe my feelings upon finishing the issue is hyped. I was very hyped. I’m going with a 9.

Continued below

Next month is the last issue, and yet the Ben Stenbeck variant for the final issue hasn’t been revealed yet. Maybe this is just baseless speculation, but I’m starting to feel like perhaps it hasn’t been revealed for a reason.

James: I would love a juicy spoiler variant or some kind of teaser image for what’s next. It feels only right from the artist who really introduced us to Mignola’s Frankenstein.

Final Verdict: 8.5 – “Frankenstein: New World” #3 takes the image of Frankenstein with the Hyperborean Sword from Ben Stenbeck’s Kickstarter pinup, and extrapolates that idea into a vast landscape. It suggests so much more beyond the scope of the character. There is a whole New World to explore now, after all. . .

Mignola's characters drawn by Ben Stenbeck

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James Dowling

James Dowling is probably the last person on Earth who enjoyed the film Real Steel. He has other weird opinions about Hellboy, CHVRCHES, Squirrel Girl and the disappearance of Harold Holt. Follow him @James_Dow1ing on Twitter if you want to argue about Hugh Jackman's best film to date.

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Mark Tweedale

Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, The Damned Speakeasy, and a bunch of stuff for Mignolaversity. An animator and an eternal Tintin fan, he spends his free time reading comics, listening to film scores, watching far too many video essays, and consuming the finest dark chocolates. You can find him on Twitter @MarkTweedale.

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