July 5, 2019

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Quick Hit - Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter - More than a Mashup

Mary Shelley Monster Hunter #3 
“Too many a woman had been graced by motherhood, and then disgraced by the same bearer of that gift.”

Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter # 3 
Published by Aftershock Comics 
Writers – Adam Glass and Olivia Cuatero-Briggs 
Artist – Hayden Sherman 
Letterer – Sal Cipriano 

I went into the first issue of Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter expecting to like it based off both the premise and the creative team attached. I cannot express how much more I have enjoyed this series than I even originally anticipated, though. Re-purposing of classics or literary mashups have a mixed history, even if the people attached have good track records. Not everything can be Kill Shakespeare or Pride and Predjudice and Zombies. But Mary Shelley succeeds because it exists far beyond its premise.

Most of the people I know are huge fans of Hayden Sherman’s art style, and he’s been a big sell for this book. Previously, I’ve compared his art style to Jimmy Page’s guitar playing. There are technical virtuosos, and then there are uber-talented people who, like Page, can seem to bang on a guitar and elicit a whole different set of sounds. Sherman is similar as an artist. There’s an avant-garde, almost cubist approach to his style, and it works wonders for the mood of this neo-gothic tale. For Mary Shelley, we also get treated to Sherman’s coloring skills. He plays with the color scheme in concert with his shading techniques, working in noir, Francavilla-esque tones to open the book before embarking on a marriage of blues and grays and greens to channel the other-worldly, unnatural feel of Doctor Frankenstein’s creation. 

One of the hallmarks of this series has been the narrative ambition of Glass and Cuartero-Briggs. This isn’t a quaint re-tell, a linear “what-if” approach. The creators are actively trying to conjure Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley the author, not merely her writing. As issue three opens, Mary has agreed to help Dr. Victoria Frankenstein with her macabre experiment. The work consumes her, driving a wedge between she and Percy, and causing her to withdraw from her other companions. 

Underneath the horror story retell is the subtle exploration of Mary’s motivation, her consuming fascination with the process of literally making a man. There is more than the mad scientist aspect for Mary, Victoria, and Imogen, and even more than the typical “playing God” concept. The ladies are looking to remake society, if not the world. Glass and Cuartero-Briggs cast Doctor Frankenstein’s monster, Adam, as a savior for womankind, a model for modern man in line with Shelley's (and her parents’) prescription for emancipation from the patriarchy. But things go horribly wrong, and not in the way one would initially expect. The question we readers are left to ponder as Adam comes into his own after countless lessons from Mary is, “what happens when something works exactly as it’s supposed to?”