Made Men #1

Paul Tobin (writer), Arjuna Susini (art), Gonzalo Duarte (colors), Saida Temofonte (letters)
Oni Press
September, 2017

Made Men #1 would have felt like fun progressive pulp in the late 50s, early 60s, but feels dated now. It tells the story, largely in first-person captions, of a young woman calling herself Jutte Shelley. Jutte is a pretty, blonde police officer whose team is ambushed by a group  who seem to be targeting her specifically. Readers learn that Jutte’s real last name is Frankenstein, and that she is descended from the even-smarter sister of the famous doctor. She makes a deal to bring someone back from the dead in order to fund her efforts to avenge her team.

made men

2018 is the bicentennial of the original publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and I can only imagine that Volume 1 of Made Men is scheduled for publication next year to capitalize on that. The comic evokes not only the original novel and horror movie adaptations, but also Gene Wilder’s portrayal of Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, as like Frederick, Jutte explains that she had rejected her family’s legacy … until now.

The original novel became a classic because it dealt engagingly with weighty philosophical questions about the borders between humanity, monstrosity and God-like creation. So far, this comic does not pose those questions directly, but instead focuses on the titillating question beloved of pulp: how far would you go for revenge? The lush rounded lines of Arjuna Susini’s stylized art are well-suited to the emotional content. The words and images work together to provide all the gore, boobs, and portentous crows a reader could want.

The plot of the comic is largely conveyed by Jutte’s captioned narration, and while there are really only three scenes in this issue, the pacing feels unbalanced. The first 13 of the issue’s 21 pages are devoted to Jutte’s careful detailing of the scene where her team was ambushed. Then there is a rushed scene in which she makes a deal with a wealthy drug lord (the only person of color who speaks in this issue) in order to fund her revenge on those who ambushed her team. Then there are a few panels in which the narration alludes to her reanimating her team to set up that revenge, and finally, the scene in which she begins her revenge. While that final short scene does successfully cause excitement about the series to come, the opening could have been condensed a lot in order to devote more pages to Jutte’s medical experiments. Perhaps those scenes are being left intentionally vague so that detailed flashbacks can reveal them later? Tobin won two Eisners for best digital series for his comic Bandette, so presumably he knows what he is doing.

Overall, this issue reminds me of the film versions of Frankenstein’s monster slowly and jerkily twitching to life. It doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. It feels dated because of the gender and race politics presented so far, though Jutte herself and her brilliant grandmother are promising characters, and her re-assembled team might offer various kinds of diversity as the series goes on. As Svetlana Fedetov writes in her review of the issue, “It’s not exactly attention-grabbing but it does manage to promise a good pay-off if the reader continues on to the second issue. We get a quick display of her powers and there’s some sort of lion-man-creature in there, so that’s pretty rad.” We don’t know what this comic can do now that it has lumbered to its feet, but I agree that the potential presented in the final splash page is encouraging. Like Frankenstein’s Monster, it might eventually form a whole greater than the sum of its parts.