Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter #1 begins with a scene from 1931’s Frankenstein but the biggest horror of the issue may be the reminder that Mary Shelley was a teenager. Mary Shelley (then Godwin) was 16 when she got together with Percy Bysshe Shelley, but the truth doesn’t sink in with a number. It sinks in watching them get kicked out of the house that their friend, Lord Byron, was renting for being “heathens.”
Being young adults, they’re also the perfect age for horror movie clichés, which might bear keeping in mind when they accept an invitation to stay at Dr. Frankenstein’s manor. Winter weather is rough on travel (that’s still the case, and we have snow plows) but while there’s at least one house in view (the one they were staying in), they have no excuse for sticking around (they can deal with the angry landlord later).
Maybe it won’t work out but it’s the lack of trying that makes Adam Glass and Olivia Cuartero-Briggs’ script frustrating. These are some of the greatest writers of all time and they’re making stupid mistakes in real life. Percy keeps bringing up this premonitory notion he had, like they don’t have enough to go on, between the screams and blood, to justify leaving Frankenstein’s without it.
The worst part is Mary barely says a word. At their engagement party, Percy does all the talking, while Mary plays the dutiful fiancée. Again, you always have the excuse that this was the 19th century, and it was a different time for women, but she should be able to speak freely. Instead, she doesn’t even get to answer a question about whether she’s pregnant (Percy answers for her). He’s also very open with their private lives. Assumedly, everyone there’s a friend (and it helps the reader, who may not have their biographies down pat) but that’s not how dialogue works, and not everything has to be public knowledge.
The most we hear from Mary is during her narration but that’s primarily to let us know something bad is going to happen. Bad endings are per the course in Frankenstein stories, so this isn’t really news. It doesn’t distract from the fact that Mary’s being sidelined.
By keeping the speech bubbles confined to their panels (they get cut off if they go over), Sal Cipriano’s letters provide an intimacy, that’s ideal for a horror story. Only a conspirator would be allowed to get this close. The best moment of the issue is when Percy poses they have a horror writing competition. Mary’s face is the center of the page and her expression is so taken and struck by the idea.
Hayden Sherman’s art amplifies every scene – the frenetic lines, the color journey he takes us on. The way he saves colors, too, so when hot pink shows up, it’s a special occasion. The color red draws a kinship between the red-haired Mary and a tour guide we meet in the present day, who has red-tinted glasses (much can be excused by her line that a lot isn’t known about the Shelleys’ time in Geneva but I don’t understand why Claire gets introduced as Mary’s stepsister while her half-sister, Fanny, does not). We know to keep our eyes on them but, if that’s to continue, issue 2 will have to do better. It’s Mary Shelley, not Percy Bysshe Shelley, Monster Hunter. We want to hear from her, not him.
Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter #1 goes on sale April 17th from AfterShock Comics.