With its fun mix of Gothic horror and humor, “Made Men” #5 follows Jutte Frankenstein and her resurrected team of monsters. But can the story find a way to be more than just a fun, airy romp with some monsters? Some spoilers follow.
Written by Paul Tobin
Illustrated by Arjuna Susini
Colored by Gonzalo Duarte
Lettered by Saida Temofonte
Who killed Jutte Frankenstein? The closer she and her team get to finding out the truth, the more they realize that this rabbit hole goes very, very deep. The bodies are piling up and while Jutte’s got an inside man—Detective Larkin—things are unravelling fast. On the plus side, the police have found the man who murdered the chief of police. But while that’s good news for Jutte, it’s bad news for Larkin, who’s starting to find out what it’s like to be the only straight-and-narrow cop in the whole force.
After the corrupt police chief was assassinated last issue, Jutte Frankenstein has pretty much run out of leads as to who murdered her and her team of police officers. And like Jutte, the plot of “Made Men” seems to be groping around in the dark a little bit, trying to figure out where it should go. Not much actually happens in this issue, which would be a problem, if it weren’t for the fact that what does happen is very fun.
The art in “Made Men” is the star of the show. Arjuna Susini has a scratchy style that keeps the tone of the story from veering to far into the humorous territory the script takes it in, keeping everything grounded in a Gothic style. Similarly, Gonzalo Duarte’s colors coat Jutte’s secret laboratory in darkness, making it feel like a mad scientist lair, while also allowing scenes that are bright and sunny to be both those things without losing their gothic edge.
One of the most interesting parts of “Made Men” #5 is the use of grids in the layouts. There are two pages of 24-panel grids, full pages of small, square panels that consist of a single conversation. The number of panels and their size allow the conversation to play more naturally. Some of the panels are taken for beats between thoughts, which allows Susini’s facial work to tell the story and it shines. There is never more than a single word bubble in each panel and expression. The 24-panel grid allows for natural character interactions, since the panels are so small, it also keeps the issue moving. There is the interaction, character work and beats that one would see in a decompressed comic, while not having this conversation take up half the issue.
It’s very well done, and just one example of the work that Susini allows panels to do. The layouts throughout the issue are all interesting. There is a police raid sequence using nine-panel grids to great effect, but also many cases where the layouts are less formally structured, but still allow each panel to flow from one to the next in very well. In every case, though, the page structure keeps the issue moving, never letting it get bogged down too much in the story.
Which is good, because at the moment, the story is floundering a little bit. “Made Men” is not a series that is too concerned with world building. While there is some lip service paid to wondering about the implications of Jutte’s ability to raise people from the dead, most of it is just handwaved away. But while that is a bit of a criticism, it’s also just the kind of series that this is. “Made Men” is more about how funny it might be to have an actual lion headed person be confused for a furry than it is the metaphysics of bringing people back to life.
All that is totally fine, except that the series so far wants to have its cake and eat it too. There are certain characters that, when the series first started, seemed to have been introduced specifically to have these kinds of conversations about what this resurrection process does and means. Gemini, who isn’t even present in this issue, is a combination of two people. It seems like that kind of mixing together of two separate lives, experiences, people, would beg to be explored a little more in depth, yet the character has been nothing more than a body to take up space so far in the series, and isn’t even present in this issue.Continued below
Instead, Tobin seems to be focusing on the characters who have the easiest stories to tell. Jutte Frankenstein, who is just trying to solve the murder of her team. Hadry, the resurrected, lesbian abolitionist who was killed in the early 20th century, and is now amazed by the world she gets to live in. Leo, who is just a person with a lion head that thinks like a lion. These are all fun characters, but they aren’t particularly deep ones, and their surface level stories haven’t done much to change that.
Which again begs the question, is this series going for deep characters? If not, that might be fine. It can be just a fun but Gothic story about these slightly shallow characters, and that in and of itself would be a pretty good time. The art is interesting enough, and the dialogue fun enough, that for now, it’s okay that “Made Men” is a little shallow. But I hope that it starts to be a little bit more than that. There are plot threads that have started to be introduced. The cliffhanger that ends this issue, and the one that ended the last, that seem to indicate that this story is moving in a direction where there is a little more to the story than just watching these characters have a fun time. But, even if it isn’t, for now the fun time they’re having is still pretty enjoyable ride.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – While the story is still a bit shallow, the plot and characters are fun enough, and the art beautiful enough, that “Made Men” #5 is still worth reading.