The Modern Frankenstein #5 is a horror comic published by Magma Comix, an imprint of Heavy Metal Comix. The writer is Paul Cornell and the artist is Emma Vieceli. The colours are by Pippa Bowland and the letters are from Simon Bowland. This is the last in the series.
Talented young doctor Elizabeth Cleve is introduced to her brilliant but strange teacher, Dr. James Frankenstein. James instantly becomes interested in Elizabeth as she becomes fascinated by him. After he miraculously cures her mother’s heart and dementia, Dr. Cleve joins Frankenstein in his private wing of the facility. Here he performs unethical but advanced trials, with human test subjects. Elizabeth willingly and eagerly embraces these tasks, taking a leading role in the experiments. She gets closer to James; their relationship turning romantic. After Elizabeth aids James in killing an escaped “patient” and discovers that she is pregnant. With their work threatening to be exposed, James murders Cleve’s teacher, just as she realises that James has been experimenting on their unborn child and that she was just a conduit for another test.
Within this last issue, everything has changed. Elizabeth reenters the facility, now aware of what her partner has been doing. Heartbroken and afraid, Elizabeth goes to the test subject that she and Frankenstein have been converting from a monster to a reformed man. But this is also a person that can be controlled, as the doctor has used him for murder. After James admits to his actions, Elizabeth tries to escape, leading to her former confidante hunting her down.
With the huge reveal of the last issue, the reader may believe that the excitement is going to be taken down a notch. That is not the case though, as the tension remains high throughout The Modern Frankenstein #5. With the truth known to everyone, the real menace is clear and so is the danger the protagonist is in. There is a lot of action that has an intense pace. But there is also a beautifully written confrontation as the main character’s entire life is torn to pieces. This revelation is just as horrifying as any monster; a person’s future is obliterated via manipulation. The ending is quick and shocking, but the efficiency in which it happens fits the surgical motifs of the comic. What comes after that is open and just as mysterious as the plot at the height of its complication.
Something that has remained integral to this comic is the strength of its protagonist. Cleve is brilliantly written by Cornell. She has a powerful mind, one just as superb as her mentors. But within her brain is compassion. A very particular aspect of Elizabeth’s characters is something that connects to one of the key themes, and that is responsibility. Even after the brutal, gut-wrenching divulgence of James’ plans, she never once shies away from what she has done. Her body, mind, and future have all been violated, but she does not refute the fact that she committed awful actions as well. This honesty and acceptance is such a powerful concept to read. The dialogue that flows from her as she comes to terms with the horrors she has faced is terrific.
Frankenstein is an exceptional villain. Common within characters over the course of a story is the fact that they will change as the plot unfolds. But James hasn’t altered in the slightest. He is unrelenting in his search for knowledge and his analytical demeanor. When speaking to Elizabeth, there isn’t a hint of remorse, pride, fear, or anything that denotes a shift in how he acts. After everything the readers have followed him through, this is such a frightening conclusion. It becomes clear just how nefarious his procedures are, and how little he cares about anything other than results. As an adaptation of a figure that has existed for over two centuries, this is a perfect way to enact a new twist.
The art is magnificent in this last chapter. There are a lot of conversational scenes inside The Modern Frankenstein #5, resulting in Vieceli having to present the excitement visually. This is accomplished to great effect. Every facial expression is distinct and detailed. The test subject’s shift when James begins to control him is creepy and almost completely without dialogue. The character’s eyes are particularly emotional and beautiful. Something that appears frequently inside this issue is a pattern in the background of some panels. This pattern is made up of very small shapes, but part of a bigger series of shapes themselves. It looks like the scales of a snake or a dragon, curled around and weaving between both of them. This is mesmerising and a fantastic addition of texture, sometimes used as shading too.
The colours are brilliant. It may be due to the fact that the medical element of the comic has been overlapped by the horror genre, but Bowland’s colours have come out to play more. And as the comic progresses, more colour appears. What has stayed the same are the techniques. A bright, stark shade takes a dominant place in the foreground whilst the background is darker, drawing the attention. For much of this last issue, this is the pink of Elizabeth’s dress.
The lettering has been faultless throughout the series. Bowland’s word balloons have been methodical and unchanged since the very first issue, and always easy to read.
The Modern Frankenstein #5 unleashes an intense conclusion to a unique and captivating series. This has been a tale that has relied on its characters to tell its story, and the strength in these figures is what carries the five issues. The writer adapts the 200-year-old novel into a modern nightmare. The same themes that made that book so frightening maintain their strength two centuries later. Cornell’s eloquent but honest dialogue doesn’t pull punches. There is so much tension within this finale that it radiates from the page, and the art is stunning in keeping it. The ending is a satisfying climax that also leaves unsettling thoughts in the reader that will linger for as long as they remember this comic.
The Modern Frankenstein #5 is available August 25th. The trade of Modern Frankenstein will also be on sale September 25th.
The Modern Frankenstein #5
The Modern Frankenstein #5 unleashes an intense conclusion to a unique and captivating series.
Screenwriter with a love of comics and movies. Once referred to Wuthering Heights as “the one with the Rabbits.”