Comic Review: Monster & Madman #1

Monster & Madman #1
The Secret History of Jack the Ripper and Frankenstein’s Monster
Written by Steve Niles
Illustrated by Damien Worm
Colored by Damien Worm
Edited by Chris Ryall
Covers by Damien Worm
IDW Publishing
Release Date: March 12, 2014
Cover Price: $3.99

Have you ever wondered what became of Victor Frankenstein’s Monster at the end of Mary Shelley’s classic story? Did he perish while drifting off to sea on an ice patch, or did he survive both the bitterness of the wild and his own self-loathing? Well, the mystery is over.

Steve Niles new comic book contains the truth behind the Monster’s fate, and his secret history seems to involve an infamous villain from the past: Jack the Ripper. In IDW’s latest mini-series event, Monster & Madman, Niles, along with illustrator Damien Worm, weave an intricate tale encompassing such themes as inner-turmoil, murder, and insanity.

Emotionally tortured by his actions and the various past lives that are a part of his body and soul — all of which he cannot fully understand — the Monster wanders aimlessly, trying to grasp his curse of living. As he struggles with his humanity, while simultaneously doing his best to keep a safe distance from people in general, the Monster is continuously used by others for personal gain. After a slew of violent interactions and one long, arduous journey, the misunderstood behemoth comes face to face with a true beast of a man, one whose notoriety could set the Monster on a path of destruction.

What a great first issue! Niles has a true gift when it comes to creepy, horrific storytelling, but he also has a keen sense of the human heart and its emotional spectrum. In Monster & Madman #1, he’s done an incredible job giving Frankenstein’s Monster an air of humanity. The Monster is vicious and volatile, but only when pushed to his limit; his struggles are personified through sorrow, anger, and despair. The story provides excellent characterization and a nice set up for issue two of the 3-issue series.

The haunting sketches by Worm are perfectly constructed using a bleak set of colors to emphasize the outer facade of terror portrayed by the story’s protagonist in contrast with his inner beauty. Worm’s use of glazed layers adds beautiful depth to each of his panels, carefully endearing each one as an individual work of art. The cloudy softness of the drawings juxtaposes synchronously with his gestural inked lines on the characters.

While Jack the Ripper makes only a brief appearance in this issue, his depiction — completely blacked-out with only a pinkish hued hand reaching “out” of the page to offer assistance — is by far the scariest image presented in the comic.

Monster & Madman #1 is a visually stunning and eerie tale that is written with complexity and heartfelt emotion. I can’t wait to find out if a Monster can become a man and how a man can become a monster.

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