Courtney Bow is a lovely socialite with a 1920’s style and the attention of every man of prestige in Boston, Massachusetts. As a child, she became famous for being photographed with fairies, before a scandal insisted that she had lied. Unfortunately, after a terrible car accident caused by the man she loved, Courtney is left a damaged corpse. At the hands of her admirer Dr. Krall and his assistant Irene, Courtney is brought back to life. Stitched and bald, she becomes the Dr’s Galatea, or Gail for simplicity. Dr. Krall is a disgraced man, having been thrown out of his medical school for stealing narcotics and having his life ruined by the man who took Courtney’s. Vincent Krall feels that training his Gail to be the perfect woman he can present her to the scientific community as proof that his alternate methods can bring back a human being and prove himself worthy of high society. Things become complicated when Gail is reintroduced to the world around her and meets people who may find her more interesting as she is than as a “perfect woman.”
Madame Frankenstein reminds its female readers a great deal of the male gaze and stringent society rules placed on women to make them “perfect” for the male community. Dr. Krall first teaches Gail what a male is, and works consistently to put her in a state of learning where she should pay attention to a man when speaking and to let him be the dominant figure. Gail, however, is much stronger than she was when initially alive and could possibly destroy Krall at any moment. Krall goes so far as to take Gail to a burlesque tent at a carnival so that she may absorb some elements of sexuality. Like a trained elephant, Gail initially does not pull away from the small posts of society she has been taught. What Madame Frankenstein also does is show the complex expectations of what a man must do in society to show his masculinity and rise above class borders. Krall’s life was ruined when Henry Lean’s family pulled all funding from his schooling and all financial means. He feels less of a man because of it, and almost all of his work goes back into proving himself.
Megan Leven’s artwork is stunningly beautiful, focusing on black and white lines and well done facial expressions. So much of the book shows the parallels between Courtney and her reborn version, Gail. Leven’s art, however, is capable of going from beautiful Gatsby-esque designs to full blown horror comic. Images of gangrenous flesh and severed limbs also decorate many pages. Jamie Rich’s work on the story makes for interesting reading and dialogue, all of which blends easily with Leven’s capable work.
Madame Frankenstein Volume #1 is available from Image Comics February 25, 2015.