By Victor LaValle, Dietrich Smith, and Joana Lafuente
Frankenstein’s monster is revived once again literally and figuratively with Destroyer. Writer Victor LaValle abruptly brings the horror icon into the 21st century. After his Arctic slumber is disturbed by whale poachers, the creature is thrust back into the world once again. Once he learns of the events that have taken place in his absence and experiencing what unfolded with the poachers, the monster begins a journey to put an end to the true horror(s) of the world. Amidst all this, an organization who has been monitoring it for 225 years prepares to handle the situation. They must call in all the scientists, or “alchemists”, to assist, but there is one whom might resist: Dr. Baker. She has her own demons that she is dealing with and creating…not unlike a certain Genevan scientist.
Yes, there have been countless follow-ups/sequels to Frankenstein, especially in comics, but right off the bat, this comic sets up a captivating premise. The first page is a beautiful full-page shot of the creature sitting atop a massive iceberg, awakening and overlooking the barren landscape from his icy throne. It’s a stunning, visceral image that artists Dietrich Smith and Joana Lafuente crafted together. LaValle incorporates key elements from the original book such as how Victor was coping with the loss of a loved one and frames it within contemporary context. Excessive force, gun violence and prejudice aren’t simply subtext in the narrative. These themes are present vividly throughout, but not to the point of being heavy-handed or breaking the flow of the story. There is a clear message being through words and imagery and the creative teams wants readers to understand and engage with it.
Also, there is a clear love for and inspiration from all the incarnations of Frankenstein. Whether it be character’s names, the appearance or characters or narrative devices seen in other media, this book has incorporated several influences. It does toe the line of being derivative and some may say it is, but the exposition being done in this issue is setting up what could become some strong, fresh characters in contemporary and realistic circumstances. The extraordinary revolves around the science and the creature(s), but the backbone of the narrative is grounded in real emotion and pain. That’s a story that interests me and one that’s certainly easy to get behind.
Honestly, this is not my favorite depiction of Frankenstein’s monster by a longshot, but it isn’t a deal-breaker. The page layouts are textbook; intense or disorienting scenes are presented in slanted panels while the rest use the standard square or rectangular structure. There is very much a discontent of form with content, this material screams to break normal constraints, but sadly the art team plays it safe. Now, it must be said that Dietrich Smith and Joana Lafuente deliver pages that show identifiable, empathetic characters that the audience can latch on to. Their reactions and facial expressions aren’t overly exaggerated colored remarkably well to present the depth in their eyes, which helps the themes and messages resonate off the page.
Destroyer clearly has potential, it’s a creation still trying to find its footing, so it’s worth sticking with for at least a few issues. This comics wants to reach its readership; it has a voice yearning to be heard. It’s evident the creative team isn’t just trying to use a well-known intellectual property to make a name or buck for themselves and one has to respect that.