Angel vs. Frankenstein
Story & Art: John Byrne, Colors: Ronda Pattison, Letters: Robbie Robbins, Edited: Chris Ryall
Cover By: Frank Byrne definitely did the cover... I can only assume Ronda Pattison colored it as well, since there isn't a cover art credit.
Page 01: In Geneva, Switzerland, shortly after the year 1800 has been rung in, Angelus arrives and takes lodgings at an inn.
Page 02: Angelus takes a room at the back of the inn where it gets no sun during the daylight hours. He enquires after the location of an address that he has. An address which causes the inn-keeper to immediately warn his guest off. The house Angelus, under the name Herr Schmidt, is interested in has the local reputation for being cursed.
Commentary: I really love Byrne's artwork, and this is especially true of the backgrounds. You can tell he was given plenty of time to complete this project so he could really fill the background spaces with detailed furnishings.
Page 03: The innkeeper's granddaughter shows Angelus to his room, and of course behind her back fangs-out. We cut to an outside shot of the full moon and the outside of the room and can draw our own conclusions as to the granddaughter's fate.
Page 04: Days later, Angelus goes to the mysterious home (or not so mysterious, considering the title) and hears the butler within. When he knocks on the door, he's told to go away.
Page 05: Not to be detoured in whatever he is seeking, he kicks in the door on the elderly butler. The man has trouble breathing and when a young woman named Elspeth comes down to the scene, she foolishly invites Angelus in to help her shift the door off of her servant.
Page 06: Back at the inn, another man - tall, ghastly looking - comes looking for Angelus, by name. When the innkeeper reports no one by that name has checked in, and asks after why the stranger wishes to locate the gentleman in question, he is grabbed violently by the throat.
Commentary: Obviously, this is Frankenstein's Monster. Just as obviously, this is not the monster of the Universal series. This is the creature as described in Mary Shelley's work: intelligent, articulate and very bitter about both its creation and its constant rejection.
Page 07: The monster is interrupted in his building rage by the granddaughter rushing to her grandfather's rescue. Not out of any sense of love for him, however, but for his possible use later. For she reveals here that she has been turned. She gives the Monster a good kick to the face and they go hand to hand as the grandfather is knocked to the floor.
Commentary: In keeping with 'Blood and Trenches' reviewed here, it is three days later - the length of time Byrne has established it takes a vampire to rise after being turned. Also, there is a very Hammer films feel here in the look of the innkeeper & the heaving bosoms of the granddaughter.
Page 08: The Monster, looking particularly hideous, grabs a walking stick and breaks it into a point. He tells the girl he'll deliver what he wishes he himself could gain, death... and stakes her. We still have no idea why he is stalking Angelus however, or how they know one another.
Page 09: At Frankenstein Manor, the servant has been placed into bed by a 'helpful' Angelus. But as soon as Elspeth leaves for brandy, he presses his hand tightly over his face (enough to crack bone), smothering the old man to death.
Page 10: Angelus tells Elspeth of her butler's expiration, skipping the inconvenient details. He now introduces himself to her as Wilhelm Frankenstein, male heir to her family's home and possessions as there are no other male relatives in the home.
In the meanwhile, the innkeeper grieves for his daughter, sharing that he knew she was a vampire. He claims that Angelus promised to restore her if he cooperated - which, clearly was a lie and a half. The Monster presses the innkeeper into helping him, now, and relates his origin story.
Commentary: This part of the tale at first comes across as an unconvincing and clumsy way to go about filling in the Monster's history. You'd think there would be no reason for him to go through this, except as exposition for the reader's benefit and I was disappointed in it. However, we find out later that the Monster retelling its origins was done quite deliberately, so all is forgiven in a few pages....
Page 11: The Monster continues with his tale, basically outlining Mary's story - he learned to clothe himself and speak, he returned to his creator to beg for a mate that he might not be shunned all alone, Victor Frankenstein ended up killing the she-creature before in a pique of second thought, the Monster returned on Victor's wedding night and slay his bride in return, they ended up in the arctic with Victor dying of exposure and the Monster drifing away on an ice floe.
The Creature then relates that it didn't die as expected, and after a time returned to civilization with a new plan of revenge on his dead creator....
Page 12: The Monster's plan required a human-looking agent, one without scruples or morals who would act on his behalf. He wandered across Europe until he found a hive of iniquity in Prague. There he found exactly the sort he was looking for... Angelus.
Page 13: Following him one night from an underground pub of the worst of the worst people, and the Monster discovered vampires for the first time when Angelus was confronted by his fellow bloodstalkers over a debt. Angelus makes quick work of most of them and then feeds on the floozy he'd accompanied there on the street in plain view.
Commentary: Note that Frankenstein's Monster doesn't lift a finger to help her out, either. There are no 'heroes' in this story....
Page 14: The Monster makes a proposition to Angelus regarding him playing heir to the Frankenstein fortune, and through him the Monster will gain the wealth that he feels is his by right, as the only heir of Victor Frankenstein.
He very quickly discovers that Angelus is not to be trusted, however, as he is unceremoniously thrown from a speeding horse carriage and left for dead. Angelus continues on, to where we met him on Page 01 - enacting the Monster's plan to retrieve the fortune by pretending to be heir to the family.
Page 15: The Monster leaves the innkeeper alive with this data dump....
In the meanwhile, "Wilhelm" discovers that there isn't any Frankenstein wealth left, it having been squandered by Victor and his father. Though Elspeth was beneficiary through her murdered cousin (Elizabeth, the bride of Victor who the Monster murdered), she's only barely been able to hold onto the home and even now cannot put off foreclosure much longer.
Angelus is mildly disappointed at this state of affairs, but having been up all night (supposedly traveling), he requests a bedroom which Elspeth readily gives him. He mentions that he'll have to be forgiven by her for sleeping the whole day away....
Page 16: Elspeth sends 'Wilhelm' up with the maid, Yvette and it is obvious she's about to go the way of the innkeeper's daughter. But, fortunately for her the Monster arrives at this time, surprising Angelus.
The Monster grabs up Elspeth and finding her of no interest since she hasn't been turned throws her away, where she hits a wall hard.
Page 17: Monster Fight! Frankenstein's Monster goes after Angelus for his betrayal, but finds the vampire able to hold his own against the usually superior strength of the Creature.
Page 18: The Monster has superior strength to Angelus and seems about to bash his brains in, when the tables briefly turned. However, Angelus sweep-kicks him off of his feet, and pounds him with his fists.
In the background the de rigueur villagers with torches are quickly getting closer, the seed that Monster planted with the innkeeper having 'borne fruit'.
Page 19: The Monster explains that he allowed the innkeeper to live after telling him his story just so that he would run to the authorities. If I understand the implications here, it was so that Angelus would be thwarted in his attempts to lay claim to the Frankenstein 'fortune', since his plan to use the vampire to access it himself had already been doomed.
He picks up the vampire and throws him down a hill for the mob to encounter, but in turn is shot himself when a doctor that Elspeth sent for to tend to her stricken butler finally makes his appearance earlier than the mob arrives.
Commentary: With the Monster's tale and his granddaughter's fate, obviously the mob would be well aware of Angelus' true nature, even if he 'put on' his human features.
Page 20: With the Creature having followed Angelus over the hillside, the doctor rushes to check on those in the house. We find here that Elspeth was killed by her impact with the wall (broken neck).
At the same time, the Monster is picking himself up off the ground and complaining that even shot and fallen from such a height, he hasn't died. Angelus barrels into him unexpectedly and sends them both into a river.
The Monster complains that the current is carrying them toward the villagers, dooming them both, but Angelus explains he isn't worried.
Page 21: With the vampire not having to breathe, he pushes the Monster underwater, intending to drown him. At the same time, he's able to dive under and allow the current to carrying him by the torch wielding villagers without being seen.
What he doesn't plan on, is the fact that the current is there because it leads to a falls. They both go over the edge and into the froth below. As Angelus loses his grip on Frankenstein's Monster, his head is slammed into the bottom from the force of the falls.
Commentary: I'll quibble just a little bit here, because this is an exact repeat of how Angelus seperately escaped the British and then German soldiers in John Byrne's earlier story, Blood and Trenches... how about watching out for repeating your set pieces, John?
Page 22: Angelus floats to the surface, only for his back to burst into flames, the dawn sun having risen in the meantime. He quickly dives back under, but there is no sign of his rival and new enemy. Swimming for safety, he comes up in a draining sewer, an angry scowl in place.
On the side of the page, we get a newsclipping describing the strange events of Frankenstein's Manor. The doctor opines to the paper that both strangers were swept away by the river and drowned, but we get no confirmation of the Monster's fate.
The Good: The artwork is very detailed and the coloring is rich, deep, and very well done. You know, letterers rarely get any love, but Robbie is who I'd want lettering my work and I like the Monster's dialog balloons being different then everyone else's, immediately giving a sense of his rough voice.
I like the way the plot is laid out, with everything fitting together logically from the Creature and Angelus' interactions to the way the innkeeper is utilized by both parties. I also like the tie in to the original story's continuity, while not violating Angel's (circa 1800 is basically blank in Angel's timeline).
I like that this time, there are marked differences in one's man's face to another (John has a habit of making all of his faces look identical).
The detailed environments surrounding our characters is a big plus on nearly every panel. With the saturated coloring, many panels are gorgeous to look at.
I like the idea of Angelus' gambling debts, as it really points back to Liam - who informs everything that Angelus is (but see other thoughts).
The Bad: I don't find anything particularly objectionable.
Other Thoughts: I'm of two minds about the Monster taking a whole page to tell us his story, which everyone should already know either through common knowledge of the original story, or through exposure to the Hammer Films version with Chris Lee. I suppose there may be young readers who know nothing about Frankenstein's Monster though, so maybe it was necessary for this exposition. At least it is used as a plot point, avoiding it appearing to be nothing but audience-benefit expositioning.
I also have to point out that while John's men each have their own face, the women have the same exact features that nearly all of his characters have.
I also don't like seeing the exact same means of escape for Angel/Angelus being used repeatedly.
Although I like seeing the reflection of Liam in Angelus through his gambling debt, I find the idea of vampires sitting around playing poker a ridiculous notion. I felt the same way when we discovered 'kitten poker' on BTVS. I can't decide if I think it's good-ridiculous or bad-ridiculous.
The Score: This is a good tale for a one-shot story, but I'm not sure I can completely buy into the conceit that Frankenstein's Monster just happens to run into Angelus just as he's looking for a surrogate to enact his fraud against the Frankenstein family. And, why he'd be looking in Prague for someone to enact this dastardly plan, instead of say Switzerland, doesn't make much sense to me. I also find it odd that a stranger can just show up at somebody's door and claim to be a long lost relative in the middle of the night and be welcomed with barely a blink of suspicion by Elspeth Frankenstein - one has to wonder just what her mental dis-function is....
Overlooking these plot hiccups though, it's an alright read: 3.25 out of 5.0