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Angel vs. Frankenstein

Posted: Monday, October 19, 2009
By: Charles Webb

John Byrne
John Byrne
IDW Publishing
EDITOR's NOTE: Angel vs. Frankenstein will be available in stores October 21.

Plot: Mary Shelley and Joss Whedon’s respective creations meet for the first time in turn of the century Geneva.

Comments: Within the so-called “Whedon-verse” of characters, Angel has always been the one with the most interest for me in stories set in the present while simultaneously making me ambivalent about the stories set in his past. For those unfamiliar with him, Angel is a long-lived vampire once known as the vicious Angelus before receiving a curse which granted him a soul and in turn, a conscience. In Whedon’s fiction, the character has spent the last 200 years attempting to atone for the things he did as Angelus becoming, in effect, a supernatural avenger.

Thematically, I think the character is rich with parallels to Shelley’s monster from Frankenstein given that the latter creature was also unburdened by conscience due to his abandonment by his creator, the doomed doctor. His subsequent crimes become the result of amorality and later bitterness at being an incomplete thing. If Angel’s greatest issue is his atonement for his past, then the monster’s is his rage at his lack of a past.

What’s interesting about this John Byrne penned (and drawn) one-shot is that it studies the monster’s need for a connection with the past while making Angelus (not Angel) the co-lead. Thematically, it feels a bit imbalanced with Angelus seemingly wandering into a Frankenstein’s monster story. In fact, Angelus could have been substituted for any con man and this story would have still run as it does now.

The plot involves Angelus travelling to Geneva and posing as a long lost heir to the Frankenstein fortune after double-crossing the monster who originally formulated the idea. And that’s it, really. Although Angelus is featured prominently throughout, the story is effectively the monster’s as he attempts to regain what he believes to be rightfully his. Interestingly, the story’s emphasis on heritage and history is reflected in its subtitle, “The Heir.”

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot for Angelus to do except act as a murderous rogue who also wants the Frankenstein fortune. The plot allows for him to be a general bastard throughout but nothing particularly interesting comes of his involvement with the story.

The prose and art of the both remind of the horror Gene Colan Dracula work out of Marvel in the '70s with the added flourish of more elaborate hand-to-hand fighting thanks to the stylized pseudo-karate of the Whedon-verse. Even the muted colors and heavy line work evoke those older works, the illusion only shattered with the occasionally rough panel where a character’s face is ill-defined or unfinished.

Byrne also captures the voice of the monster effectively, making him the cunning beast of Shelley’s original novel while keeping him just different enough from Whedon’s nasty vampiric killer. Still, it would have been wonderful if the plot had been expanded further somehow to justify the inclusion of Angelus since as it stands he feels underused in this story.

Final Word: It’s interesting if only for the throwback classic horror comic style but the very limited plot leaves a lot to be desired.
 
If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the author’s work at Monster In Your Veins



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