Review: Victor LaValle’s Destroyer #1

Darryll Robson Darryll Robson
Expert Contributor
May 27th, 2017

Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.

Review: Victor LaValle’s Destroyer #1
Comics
0
Price:
Monstrous

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On May 27, 2017
Last modified:May 27, 2017

Summary:

A macabre, modern updating of a horror classic. There is some brilliant character work and an inspired sci-fi story line. You will come for the horror but stay for the intrigue.

Price:
Monstrous

Reviewed by:
Rating:

5
On May 27, 2017
Last modified:May 27, 2017

Summary:

A macabre, modern updating of a horror classic. There is some brilliant character work and an inspired sci-fi story line. You will come for the horror but stay for the intrigue.

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Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ is a classic, world renowned novel that has been adapted time and time again. There are the straight forward adaptions of the story but just as many reworking’s, re-writings and thematic sequels.   In 2015, Image Comics put out Jamies S Rich and Megan Levens’ take on the story with the intriguing, yet long winded, Madame Frankenstein. And now it’s Boom Studios’ turn to reintroduce you to the characters and ideas originally published in 1818.

Review: Victor LaValle's Destroyer #1

Synopsis

In the ice wastes of Antarctica, a soulless whalers ship meets with an unstoppable vengeance. After The Monster witnesses the hunting and killing a mother and calf whale he becomes enraged and attacks the modern day vessel; destroying all.

This attack is witnessed by anther ship, one that was in the Antarctica seas to stop the illegal whalers. The Monster turns his attention on them but the captain’s daughter, an idealistic young woman, manages to abate the creatures anger. She, along with the rest of the crew, recognise the Monster for who he is; the legendary Frankenstein creation. However, the Captain doesn’t seem as surprised as everyone else on board and makes a secret phone call.

The return of the Monster to american soil ends the introduction to the comic and sets a very violent, unrelenting tone.

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The narrative then turns to Professor Josephine Baker. She is introduced in a bar, where she is extremely drunk but there is an intelligence guiding her like a voice within her head. Mystery surrounds her and the organisation that is searching for her but one thing becomes clear; she has suffered a great loss, one that she intends to rectify.

Analysis

One of the most surprising things about this comic hits the reader very early on; it’s excessively violent. The concepts of death and vengeance are obviously going to be themes that run throughout this comic but to be introduced to them in such a blood thirsty way from the get go is a bit of an eye opener. It’s difficult to know what to expect from a ‘Frankenstein’ retelling because there are so many different variations but Victor LaValle sets the scene perfectly from the very beginning.

The opening page tells the reader everything they need to know about the Monster; he is a n old, withered creature, ancient but at peace. His positioning on the massive iceberg, circled by wild birds, gives the creature a majestic air. This is important for what follows because the writer needs the reader to be on the Monster's side and that’s difficult to do with the introduction in this comic. The death and destruction that follows in the creature’s wake make it very easy to cast him as a villain but LaValle doesn’t want to do that; he wants the reader understand how much the creature has suffered but still defends the helpless, as in Shelley’s original novel. This is executed perfectly in the opening to the story and will leave you in open mouthed shock.

The second half of the comic, the introduction to the central character Professor Baker, has a different pace and a different tone. Her introduction takes her from hopeless drunk to genius in a handful of pages; her character slowly evolving with the narrative. There is a collection of high tech gadgets and a host of Sci-Fi paraphernalia but this is just dressing for a tragic tale of child loss which is at the centre of it all.

The script is meticulous and in-depth; a full bodied exploration of two unlikely heroes, the Monster and a grieving scientist. However, it is Dietrich Smith’s art work that expresses the horror and emotion of the characters. There is real hatred and anger on the Monsters face as he witnesses the death of the whales but there is also a deep sadness, disillusionment with the real ‘monsters’ who would perform such an act. This intensity and range of emotions follows through into Professor Baker’s life so that she is not just a 2-dimensional character. So early in the story she has depths that help you, as a reader, empathise as well as sympathise with her situation. In each case, The Monster and The Professor, their actions are justified in relation to their emotional states.

Smith and the colorist Joana Lafuente imbue the central characters with an identifiable humanity and they use a range of techniques to pace the narrative. A sweeping, layered effect helps illustrate two centuries of violence and technological advancements while a change in color palette helps the transition between present and past to tell the Professor’s story.

Victor LaValle’s Destroyer is a story about humanity and the cruelties that are associated with it. The environmentalist opening and the resurrection of the dead are both themes which have deep seated morals and LaValle does not shy away from these. There is a dark, emotional charge surging through the pages of this comic and it drags you along for the ride. It’s a gripping, modernisation of Mary Shelley’s novel; a sequel of sorts, but thematically, it’s a retelling, embedded with the horror and the love of the original.

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Victor LaValle's Destroyer #1

  • 5

Monstrous

A macabre, modern updating of a horror classic. There is some brilliant character work and an inspired sci-fi story line. You will come for the horror but stay for the intrigue.

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