In Gris Grimly’s Frankenstein, the eternal classic, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, is told as a story within a story. While on an expedition to the North Pole, Robert Walton and his crew witness a strange sight; a large man in a dogsled racing north over the frozen sea. Not long after this incident, they find another man, nearly drowned, in a similar sled. This man, whom they rescue, is Victor Frankenstein.
As Frankenstein recuperates aboard the ship, he tells his tale of horror and misery to Walton. As a young man, Frankenstein is seized with ambition, but misdirected towards sciences which have long been disregarded as quackery. He becomes disillusioned with the science taught in modern universities which seems bent only on disproving old ideas. He is unable to set aside the grand, fantastical ideas that originally led him to science…alchemy, the philosopher’s stone, eternal life, etc.
At last he discovers something in modern science that allows him to reconnect with those grand ideas. And that something is electricity. Frankenstein becomes obsessed with the process of creating his own being from raw materials and electricity. He abandons his loved ones on this two year endeavor only to find that, like Icarus, he has followed his ambitions too far. When his creature comes to life, Frankenstein immediately turns from it in horror. He flees and succumbs to illness. When he recovers, he hopes to leave his mistake in the past. But his mistake, unfortunately, has the capacity for higher thought and feeling and desire. Including the desire for revenge.
The consequences of Frankenstein’s ambition are unspeakable. He, as he says, carries his hell with him on this earth, and eventually devotes himself to seeking the destruction of his own creation. And while we have great sympathy towards Frankenstein, we also relate to the creature. A being who was born on to this earth and then abandoned by his creator. Left to discover survival and compassion and revenge and repentance…all on his own.
The story of Frankenstein is one that might have been written yesterday, so enduring is its relevance and so intriguing its subject matter. The point of this edition, of course, is the illustrations. These gothic, steampunk illustrations bring the story to a life that exceeds my own imagination. The book lives and breathes darkness, horror, and electricity. All the elements of modern urban fantasy from a story nearly two hundred years old.
I think Gris Grimly understands Mary Shelley and understands her characters. It’s evident in the illustrations that not only does he view Frankenstein’s tragic, human error with empathy and compassion, but he understands the legitimacy of the creature’s unrequited desires and need for vengeance. And though I tend to look at Frankenstein from a thematic standpoint, it’s also clear that Grimly recognizes the awesomeness of this story. Because the pictures are flat-out cool!
I also loved, absolutely loved, that the text for this graphic novel was assembled from the original text of Frankenstein. The pictures and text worked together, each carrying half the weight of the storytelling. It is an amazing feat and I’m very much looking forward to seeing more of this artist’s work. If you have, as I once had, a prejudice against graphic novels, start here. If you are or know of a reluctant reader in your family, try this book out. If you’ve never read Frankenstein, let this be your introduction. I highly recommend this book for…everyone.
A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Balzer + Bray. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.