The Prometheite (2022)

Prometheite

The Prometheite is a spiritual remake of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s not an adaptation or even a reimagining. Creator Ari S. Mulch breaks apart pieces of the novel and general Frankenstein pop culture lore, examines and considers them, then reconfigures some for use, some for discarding. So The Prometheite is entirely its own piece, albeit wholly dependent on Big Frank.

Mulch also adapts the original novel’s narrative layers, duplicating most of Shelley’s original layer shifts. Violet to “The Creature” to Violet to “Creature” to Violet to “The Creature.” I mean, there’s no sea captain, but the moves are all very beautifully executed. Mulch figures out a new way to present them, mixing text and image to create visual pacing in the way only comics can.

Violet is the Frankenstein (Victor to Violet, but not Frankenstein) analog. She’s an anatomy student surrounded by dumb, sexist men who escaped to university after convincing her parents trying to marry her off wasn’t worth the trouble. Not long after arriving, Violet’s pal, Henry Clerval, introduces Violet to his sister, Aveline. Aveline and Violet form a fast, deep friendship, while Violet immediately develops deeper, socially impossible feelings for Aveline.

The courtship scenes, which include a very tense poetry reading from Aveline, are where Mulch immediately distinguishes Prometheite. Frankenstein is unromantic. When Victor resurrects Elizabeth, he’s not bringing back his love interest; he’s bringing back his possession. Regardless of mature devotion, Victor grew up thinking Elizabeth belonged to him.

And we never see the Victor and Elizabeth courtship. Not even in the movies, really; because he’s marrying his little sister.

Anyway.

Violet is not interested in marrying her parents’ ward, she’s interested in Aveline, and just when it appears Aveline’s ready to act on her mutual feelings… she falls seriously ill. And her parents won’t let Violet visit her.

Aveline’s death scene turns out to be Mulch’s next great sequence. Prometheite’s about a hundred pages, and sometimes Mulch will spend beau coup pages on a scene. Four to six pages, building tension, focusing on some character detail. It’s often exquisite.

The tragic romance overshadows the next bit, where a grieving Violet discovers she has the means and will to attempt to resurrect Aveline. There are a lot of unanswered questions about Violet’s medical science, even for a Frankenstein. I think Frankenweenie gets more into the details.

Suffice it to say, the experiment’s a success and Aveline’s resurrection. She just happens to have some stitches she can never have out, and she’s not allowed to leave the house. Ever.

At this point in Prometheite, the comic entirely diverges from Frankenstein for a long while. Except in how Mulch tells the story, which quickly shifts to Aveline’s perspective, just like the Creature narrating in Big Frank. Everything’s such a change—it’s a macabre romance, with Aveline worrying about rotting and Violet getting madder about her science.

The action builds to a major confrontation, probably the act two break, and then it’s back to Frankenstein for the finish. However, when it turns out Mulch is going to do a repeated Frankenstein nod for the ending, it’s a surprise. Prometheite had gotten out on its own so much it didn’t seem like Mulch would bring it back.

The ending works. It’s a devastating, depressing love story.

Mulch’s art is good. Lots of great work on expressions; Prometheite is lots of talking heads and reaction shots.

The comic gets more impressive the more you think about it. It’s a good, engaging read, but backtracking through Mulch’s plotting and pacing, The Prometheite reveals itself quite superior.

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