Steve Niles is a master of horror comics. His ability to craft deeply frightening, personal horror stories is second to none. Niles is able to capture the darkest moments that any person can experience and reduce them to a conversation or a handful of panels. So, when it was announced that he would be working on a Frankenstein comic with IDW, it was not all that surprising. Frankenstein is just as synonymous to horror as Dracula or zombies. The shocking part of Niles’ Frankenstein comic, Frankenstein Alive, Alive #1 came from the content within the comic. Instead writing Frankenstein Alive, Alive #1 as a horror comic, Niles has infused this comic with a story about sorrow, despair, and the agony of being a monster.
Frankenstein Alive, Alive #1 takes place in the years after Frankenstein’s monster was washed away on his own funeral pyre. Niles picks the story up as the monster (affectionately named Frank) has begun working as a circus sideshow freak. In this portion of the story, Frank is portrayed as being finally happy, independent, and no longer an outcast among his fellow circus performers. Seeing the tormented monster finally at piece is a poignant moment for any horror fan. Films, television, and books are constantly attempting to paint the monster as a man who longs for understanding and freedom. However, most stories (read Van Helsing) force the monster to be a lamenting caricature of the haunted beast he actually is. Niles takes the character of Frank and crafts him into a truly devastated soul. This is a look at one of horror’s most infamous beasts through the lens of a man who understands isolation.
There could not be a better artist to tackle this subject matter than Bernie Wrightson. Every twisted feature and haunted landscape blooms under the pen of Wrightson. Over the course of this issue, Frank travels from the arctic into a volcanic eruption then later to a circus and Wrightson captures it all. There are dozens of characters and set pieces in this comic that are all illustrated wonderfully. Wrightson is a master of horror illustrations and it shows with every crashing wave and crumbling mountain.
Frankenstein Alive, Alive #1 was surprising. It would have been incredibly easy for Niles to write a comic about a brooding monster that longs for friendship. Fortunately, Niles set his sights higher. This is a comic that strives to explore the journey of a monster that is truly desperate with subtle and emotional writing. Frankenstein Alive, Alive #1 is a fresh look into a subject matter that many people claimed was dead.