Issue(s): Frankenstein #13, Frankenstein #14, Frankenstein #15, Frankenstein #16, Frankenstein #17, Frankenstein #18
Ok, Frankenstein came back to the present last issue but then we had to take a detour through his appearances in Monsters Unleashed, Legion of Monsters, and Giant-Size Werewolf. We are done with that, and we can get back on track, and oh look: the story starts the same way as Frank's first Monsters Unleashed appearance, with the "I hate my husband's/boyfriend's career choice" plot.
You have to love a guy that has vials on a shelf labelled "Alligator", "Lion", etc.. He's also got "Mouse"; if you read through the Monsters Unleashed issue you know that that should be equally worrisome.
Never, ever do this:
Meanwhile, this fine couples' son, Ralph Caccone, has gone out and joined a gang, but he balks when they start picking on the Frankenstein Monster.
Ralph brings the Frankenstein Monster home to meet his scientist pop. Ralph's incredible idea is to have his father clone him and transfer the Monster's brain into the cloned body.
But thanks to mom they meet a Jigsaw Monster instead.
Or is it a Night-Creature (as it's also advertised on the cover of issue #14)?
Whatever it is, it's tusks are strong enough to chip Frank's skull and cause him seemingly the first real pain that he's experienced.
Of course the idea here is that just as the Frankenstein Monster is a mishmosh of dead human bodyparts, the Jigsaw/Night-Monster is a mishmosh of animal parts.
But Moench doesn't really seem to have anything to say about that, and i'm not too fond of the idea that some suburban scientist can cook up a creation in his living room that parallels the mad achievements of the original Dr. Frankenstein.
In any event, the creature is driven off, but both of Ralph's parents are killed. Ralph isn't all that broken up about it; he's all ready to jump in the family van with the monster and make the first of two Easy Rider references in these issues.
But Ralph finds that he's being followed, bringing him into a bizarre spy story plotline where a private investigator named Eric Prawn is trying to save him from being captured by the agents of ICON ("International Crime Organization Nexus").
Meanwhile, the Jigsaw/Night-Creature, who is now called the Clone-Creature (twice), is still on the loose.
So there's a big fight at the ICON factory.
In the ensuing mess there's an explosion that burns down the factory, and the Jigsaw-/Night-/Clone-Creature is killed (which is too bad because i'd love to see what name he came back with the next time), but we're assured that ICON is a world-spanning organization so the destruction of their corpse army factory is just a temporary setback. Prawn then takes Ralph and the Frankenstein Monster to the person who hired him. That takes them to the Swiss Alps, which the Frank dimly remembers despite the brain damage that he's supposed to have.
And Prawn's employer turns out to be Veronica Frankenstein.
She is supposed to be the last surviving member of the Frankenstein family...
...but that will be disproved in this very arc. Veronica wants to help the Monster, so she offers to perform "corrective larynx surgery", which will allow the Monster to speak.
During the surgery, ICON attacks again. Eric Prawn holds them off...
...until they send in their secret weapon, a robot named the Berserker (for when animated corpses just aren't enough).
Luckily the surgery ends and the Frankenstein Monster is able to jump in and defeat the robot with his apparently increasing intelligence.
And then the Monster turns and speaks for the first time in the modern era.
The Monster immediately wants to know more information about his brain. He wants to know what he was before getting transformed into this.
It raises an interesting question: to what degree is the Monster really newly created life (which was the point of the original Frankenstein's experiment) or just a revived version of someone else? You'd almost think that the Monster wouldn't really want to know; it's not like he can remember anything about his previous self. But in any event, Veronica says she's already looked through Victor's notes and can't find anything. The Monster isn't happy with that answer, and he storms off, leaving the castle. It's a weird turn especially after his motivation for accepting Veronica's help was the ability to communicate with the people around him, like Ralph.
Meanwhile, ICON continues to attack. We learn that they are run by the least threateningly-named criminal mastermind ever, Rainbow.
One of their plants inside Veronica's castle revives the Berserker robot, and it goes after the Monster again.
During the fight, Frank rips off the robot's arm, and is concerned and confused by the fact that it doesn't feel pain. This results in an awkward but endearing conversation...
...and the two constructs wind up becoming friends, walking off into the wilderness together.
With issue #18, Bill Mantlo, in his first color comic writing assignment, takes over for Doug Moench.
The story quickly wraps up the ICON plot (Eric Prawn dies, Ralph Caccone mows down the active ICON agents with a machine gun) and depicts Frank and Berserker having a good time together in the woods.
Unfortunately that's ended when they are attacked by a horde of warped little people...
...who kill the Berserker, and bring the monster to Baroness Victoria Von Frankenstein.
Introducing a Victoria Frankenstein, descendant of the original, right after giving us Veronica Frankenstein, also a (more distant) descendant, seems a bit convoluted.
Anyway, this will all be acknowledged (i don't really want to say "resolved") in a Mantlo Iron Man story two years from now.
The letters to these issues are just brutal, with words like "terrible" and "lousy" getting thrown around. One letter writer addresses his letter to "Dear ???" because "I never know who is going to be writing the story and who will be doing the art. It seems that a lot of your mags have this problem." (Despite that, the creative team for this book had been Moench and Mayerik since the Monster was brought into the present with issue #12.) Ralph Caccone is called an "imitation Rick Jones" and ICON is something "Doug must have found in Jim Steranko's garbage can during the days of SHIELD". Similarities to the Hulk (and that was before the Monster could haltingly talk) are also noted.
Moench will do a much better appreciated Steranko spy story in Master of Kung Fu, so i don't know if the problem here was just the incompatibility with the Frankenstein Monster, incompatibility with Mayerik's art style, or just not enough time to develop it properly. It's worth noting that, as was the case with the majority of the series, issues #13-15 were all only a short 15 pages, with reprint horror stories filling out the rest of the issues. It's somewhat more understandable that Moench would dedicate so many issues to basically a single weird story when you consider that they weren't full issues. But it still does seem like a squandered opportunity to have the Monster arrive in the modern day in the Marvel universe and encounter an evil spy organization that we've never heard of before. I do think that giving the Monster a Rick Jones character was a necessary move (but hell, why couldn't it have been Rick Jones?). But replacing Eric Prawn with, say, Jimmy Woo and ICON with AIM or something... maybe that's too obvious, but what's the point of bringing the Frankenstein Monster into Marvel's present but still keep him isolated? In any event, these stories get too bogged down in stuff like the Night-/Jigsaw-/Clone-Creature to stand on their own, either.
The response is that the new team of Bill Mantlo and Val Mayerik intend to turn things around. There's no indication in issue #18 that it's actually the last issue of the series. I'd say that Bill Mantlo's Berserker/Monster interaction is the best thing about these issues, but i can't say i'm surprised the series was canceled.
FYI since most of these characters only appear in these issues of Frankenstein, i'm not tracking them in the Characters Appearing section. Only Frank himself and the Baroness (barely) make it out of this series. On second thought, i am listing Ralph Caccone on the grounds that i am going to begin lobbying for a Nonpowered Sidekicks series featuring him along with Rick Jones, Jim Wilson, Fred Sloan, and Richard Rory.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place after Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #2.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Monster of Frankenstein vol. 1 (#17-18 are originals)
Ironic those words considering that "Captain America" was Fonda's nickname in the movie. Though it would have been neat seeing the road-tripping of Frankenstein and a killer robot; too bad no one went too far with it.
Posted by: Ataru320 | April 24, 2013 8:45 PM
Ataru, i think the Cap/Easy Rider connection was deliberate, not ironic. I was going to write that Marvel was explicit about the connection; i thought i remembered a response in a lettercol acknowledging it. What i actually found was a little less clear (see the letter scan i've just added to issue #129's entry). But i'm still sure that Stan saw the Captain America references in the movie and decided to reciprocate (or exploit?).
Posted by: fnord12 | April 25, 2013 10:39 AM
And yeah, The Continuing Adventures of Frankenstein's Monster and the Berserker would have been awesome. :-)
Posted by: fnord12 | April 25, 2013 10:41 AM
What no one notes is that the Monster should only be able to speak in German (the language he learnt in the 1800s)
this storyline is finally resolved in an unpublished Jean Marc Leofficer story featuring Peregrine and Shamrock. It was never published but has been refered to in the handbooks so its cannon. I recommend it because its a good read and ties together all of the dangling Frankenstein plots from here, IM and the silver surfer.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | April 25, 2013 3:39 PM
"Prawn"? That's gotta be a Monty Python reference.
The Berserker is a virtual clone of DC's Robotman from the Doom Patrol(and he used to get his limbs ripped off too).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 26, 2013 4:36 PM
The fur vest the monster wears derives from 1939's The Son of Frankenstein from Universal, which also introduces Ygor.
Someone wrote an overview of this attempt to use the "classic monsters" in the 1970's. I find it intriguing that a similar use of "classic adventure heroes" from literature does not seem as common. (Conan as something of an exception, I suppose). Then again, one might wonder how many prose derived adventure heroes from prior to mid-1938 other than Sherlock Holmes, Zorro, Tarzan, Buck Rogers, and a few others receive many homages.
Posted by: PB210 | July 20, 2013 9:20 AM
"i'm not too fond of the idea that some suburban scientist can cook up a creation in his living room that parallels the mad achievements of the original Dr. Frankenstein."
Posted by: Michael | January 23, 2015 7:54 PM
I suspect Moench's runs of hackiness are due to 1)his repeatedly-stated preference to not do super-heroes, and 2)unlike Steve Gerber, maybe he just doesn't do well with nonverbal, (mostly)unthinking characters?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 25, 2015 1:33 AM
Ralph and Frank run into the "Eastern Seaboard" of I.C.O.N., according to the narration of what I assume to be one of its operatives.
Could it be a sly reference to Atlas/Seaboard comics? The timeframe looks just about right, and this comic does have a strong Atlas-like vibe.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 25, 2015 1:44 AM
What no one notes is that the Monster should only be able to speak in German (the language he learnt in the 1800s)
The Monster actually learned French, which was also Victor Frankenstein's native language, according to Shelley's novel. But yeah, the language issue is not addressed at all in the comics (as usual).
Posted by: Tony Lewis | April 6, 2016 2:15 PM
"Caccone" may sound good, but it means "big poop" in Italian.
Posted by: JTI88 | December 18, 2016 2:42 AM
Regarding Eric Prawn, it's hard to take a guy whose last name is shrimp seriously. At least he wasn't created by Theodore Sturgeon.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | May 15, 2017 12:39 AM
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