Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter’ #1, out April 17 from AfterShock Comics.

Cover to 'Mary Shelly: Monster Hunter #1. Art: Hayden Sherman/AfterShock Comics
Cover to ‘Mary Shelly: Monster Hunter #1. Art: Hayden Sherman/AfterShock Comics

THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘MARY SHELLY: MONSTER HUNTER’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.

by Clyde Hall. Remember when it became vogue to cast antagonists from familiar tales as protagonists? Readers found Dracula merely trying to save Lucy from the malpractice of doctors happily ordering transfusions all around. Poor Grendel picked on by that berserker bully Beowulf. The unhappy childhood of Elphaba and her insufferably perfect BFF Galinda in Oz.

In the same manner, fictional accounts of historical personages battling supernatural threats became a trend after Abe Lincoln turned from rail splitting to staking vampires. Soon, Shakespeare was having a severe case of undeath and Queen Victoria balanced courtly duties with sending demons back to their infernal pits.  

Actual events in the lives of the famous individual sometimes lend themselves to fictional manipulation. Untimely deaths during Lincoln’s life may have been caused by milk sickness or heart failure, but creative authors made vampires seem likely culprits. Such imaginative application of fantasy against established facts make entertaining fusions.

The life of Mary Shelley was filled with loss and drama warranting such a treatment, and now she comes full circle as Mary Shelley: Monster Hunter thanks to AfterShock Comics and co-writers Adam Glass and Olivia Cuartero-Briggs. She’s not only a founding genius of the modern monster genre, now she’s a slayer of fiends.

In modern day, a lost and secreted manuscript penned by Mary is discovered at the last home she resided in during her lifetime. The narrative describes the company young Mary kept in 1815–1816, in part Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and Claire Claremont. Mary (then Godwin) spent a summer in Geneva, Switzerland with them, and together they began a contest to write the scariest story. In the comic telling, the trip is expanded upon. In real life, Mary’s journal of the time was lost, and so makes a perfect window for embellishment.

Embellishment quickly begets dramatics, as Mary’s band of “hedonistic heathens” are tossed out of their winter lodging by a landlord appalled by their scandalous lifestyle. With November snows making a return to London dicey, they are approached by a servant and offered free room and board at the keep of one Doctor Frankenstein. It’s a foreboding edifice and sets the mood for dreary days relegated indoors. Days in which their host never appears, only the servant. Percy has a terrible premonition that accepting the Doctor’s invitation has opened a doorway to certain death. But as winter rages, the group passes time by instigating the famous story contest that will result in a lasting tale of mortal man reaching into God’s purview for the secrets of life.

However, unfolding events more than fertile imagination begin to shape Mary’s entry. Unnerved by the ongoing absence of their host, and by crashes and moans emanating from the Doctor’s secured section of the manse, the group decides to risk foul winter and vacate the premises. Mary has reservations about chancing survival in the hoarfrost, and instead investigates the Doctor’s den for proof that Percy’s doomcast carries any validity. What she discovers makes for a rip-roaring conclusion to the first installment.

Writers Glass and Cuartero-Briggs begin with a superlative tribute to the first Karloff Frankenstein film, stumble with a discovery moment of convenience, but then rally to 19th century drawing room drama and indiscretions. From there the miasmic shroud darkens and descends to a horrific and surprising final act. Both authors get passing marks for fitting the actual timeline to the story events. Higher marks for fashioning an enjoyable tale that spotlights a brilliant author considered by many the inventor of both modern horror and science fiction literature. Bonus points for mentioning The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, another contender for horror literature’s genesis.

Snowfalls by artist Hayden Sherman bring a vicarious chill. Undertaking a return to London in the winterblind setting he establishes adds weight to the protagonists’ predicament. His angular style applied to architecture, ruffles, and other period trappings skirt the sublime. Already rich visuals overflow with the characters themselves, modern and historic. Sherman has handcrafted a beautiful book to showcase this story.

Sal Cipriano’s lettering is understated and builds slowly in cadence with events. His approach is like carefully unwrapping a lovely package to find another, and another, and another, and finally discovering a dismembered foot in the last parcel.

Mary Shelley’s actual life was an ongoing struggle. To support herself and her son after Percy’s untimely death. To endure the loss of family members and friends. To be recognized for her talent despite the era’s bias against independent women. Even to get permission over the protests of her father-in-law for publishing works of her late husband that secured Percy’s literary legacy. Casting her as a fearless monster hunter is a natural extension of the real Mary. She spent her life fighting monsters of the realistic kind.

AfterShock Comics / $3.99

Written by Adam Glass and Olivia Cuartero-Briggs.

Illustrated by Hayden Sherman.

Letters by Sal Cipriano.

7.5 out of 10

‘Mary Shelly: Monster Hunter’ #1 hits stores April 17.

Check out Bernard Chang’s variant cover to ‘Mary Shelly: Monster Hunter’ #1, courtesy of AfterShock Comics!

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