Frankenstein's Womb
by Warren Ellis, Marek Oleksicki (Avatar, 2009)

There's a rumor that Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin -- who, as Mary Shelley, wrote the classic tragic horror novel Frankenstein -- visited the actual Castle Frankenstein in Germany in 1816, while she, future husband Percy Shelley and pregnant stepsister Clair were traveling through the countryside en route to meet Lord Byron in Switzerland.

Warren Ellis, author of Frankenstein's Womb, accepts that rumor as truth, as well as the belief -- perhaps apocryphal -- that Johann Conrad Dippel (who was born in the castle and died in 1734, well before Mary Shelley's time) dissected cadavers and experimented with anatomy and alchemy while seeking the elusive "elixir of life" to grant immortality.

In Frankenstein's Womb, the carriage stops and, while Clair indulges a bit of travel sickness, Mary explores the ruins. Inside, she meets a weird, piecemeal creature who shares with her visions of her future, the distant future and Dippel's past. In the process, no doubt, he inspires her novel.

The story isn't great. Perhaps more development would have saved it, but it's very short and consequently feels rushed and incomplete. Marek Oleksicki comes through with the art, however; his expressive, highly detailed black-and-white illustrations are very good indeed.

review by
Tom Knapp

30 October 2010

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