by Mike Carey (writer), Peter Gross (artist), Chris Chuckry & Jeanne McGee (colors), and Todd Klein (letters)

The Story: Tom Taylor begins to explore his memories and unlock the secrets of his father’s villa, which also happens to be the location of Frankenstein‘s conception.

What’s Good: Though it’s by no means a comedy book, I did find that dialogue-wise, Carey turns up the humor in this issue.  Taylor has said the odd line in past issues, but this month I really think he’s put in his best deadpan performance yet.  In fact, both Tom and Lizzie are starting to sound like protagonists out of a Brian K. Vaughan comic, and that’s never a bad thing.  What I didn’t expect, however, was for scythe-wielding bad-guy Pullman to make me laugh, but he managed to do just that.

I also really enjoyed the intertextuality this month, paralleling Frankenstein to the comic itself; the idea of Tom Taylor as a possible parallel to Victor’s monster is intriguing and Peter Gross’ rendition of Shelley’s novel at the beginning of the issue does perfect justice to the Gothic masterpiece.  It provided a great framing structure to this issue.

Again, metafiction plays a heavy part this month as a writer’s workshop of horror authors debate the nature of their genre. What ensues is humourous and accurate of the sort of scuffling that goes on in genre fiction and horror fans will no doubt have a blast. It’s great fun and Carey is clearly poking at some of his fellow writers.

Finally, it’s great to see Carey really rounding out the personality of his characters for another month.  After reading this issue, Lizzie only intrigues me all the more, while Tom’s memories only make him feel all the more human. With every passing issue, we feel a little closer to the characters just as we feel a little closer to the mystery. It’s still all cast in shadows, but we learn just enough to tantalize us for next month.  At the very least, a murderous Pullma guarantees action next month.

Meanwhile, I swear that Gross’ art is getting better with every issue.  I enjoyed it even more this month, as Gross seems to go for a “simpler is better” approach without ever feeling rushed, sloppy, or lacking.

What’s Not So Good: A minor quibble is Lizzie’s manner of dress.  I’m starting to wonder if she’s going to become a sufferer of “shrinking clothes” syndrome.  It’s all the more jarring due to the conservative dress of all of the other characters, as well as Lizzie’s own personality/character, which doesn’t exactly say “sex bomb.”  I’m not sure what Gross is after here.

Impatient readers may also be a bit frustrated that nothing is revealed this month in Tom’s explorations of the villa.  Even the sought-after maid isn’t questioned yet.  Pages of unintelligible, “overheard” dialogue return once more, this time from Tom’s dad. Although it’ll make sense once we find out the truth, it’s still a bit irritating at the moment, especially given that Carey has already done this to us before.

Conclusion: Carey and Gross go three for three in the best new series of 2009.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans