FRANK is an Enticing & Vibrant Exploration of a Small Town Murder Below a Crumbling Mountain (Review)

by | Apr 23, 2018

FRANK comic

FRANK is an original graphic novel from writer/artist Ben Rankel with letters by Ryan Ferrier published via Renegade Arts Entertainment. FRANK will be available to own in comic and book stores May 23, 2018! Check out my advanced review here:


Written and drawn by Albertan, Ben Rankel, Frank is a historical mystery set in the tragedy of the Frank Slide, one of Canada’s deadliest disasters.

1903, Eve Lee is in a self-destructive spiral—her big plans for a new life in Frank have not at all turned out how she had planned. As Eve hits the bottom she’s forced to confront her expectations when her former lover disappears under questionable circumstances. But is there something sinister at play or is she simply being obsessive and self-centered? And will she be able to put her past behind her before she finds herself buried under it? Hardcover, 112 pages Price $25 CAD ISBN: 9781987825503, Diamond code: MAR181859

Chances are — you have no clue what the Frank Slide is. Well – to everyone living in Southern Alberta, Canada, we all know and have likely seen in person the aftermath of the landslide that buried the entire town of Frank with gigantic chunks of rock. It’s one of the craziest natural disasters I’ve ever heard of and I can’t even imagine what it would have looked like when it happened in 1903 — to see almost an entire mountain just fall to pieces and crush the town below it… Terrifying. I’ve always wondered why there hasn’t been a movie or something that adapted that insane event. Well – Ben Rankel must have felt the same because he wrote an entire original graphic novel using the Frank slide as his backdrop.

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FRANK is NOT some straight adaptation of the natural disaster however… If anything, this is a slow boiling murder mystery drama that just happens to be flavoured with a juicy caramel center that is the landslide which eventually destroys EVERYTHING in its path. As I was reading FRANK, in one gripping session mind you because I couldn’t stop unravelling the mystery, I almost forgot that the landslide was coming and when it eventually hits, it kinda takes you by complete surprise which is hilarious considering all of the warning signs that Rankel made sure to sprinkle throughout his story.

Eve Lee is our main character – an alcoholic who is hellbent on discovering the truth behind a shocking murder in the town of Frank, which may involve her ex-lover. Her friend Bobby tries to help her as much as he can, but most everyone in the town seems at odds with her quest. She’s just a drunk woman and Bobby isn’t white, so the two of them are outcasts and their bond is one of the most interesting and compelling subplots of the story. Rankel does inject his story with some humour though, which was a nice touch considering that he’s exploring some of the darker moments of Canadian history here, including how Christians would take Native children and force them into Catholic schools, subsequently erasing their culture in the process. If you wanted to explore that even further – check out Jeff Lemire and the late Gord Downie’s graphic novel/album Secret Path.

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One very important note – this is Ben Rankel’s FIRST complete story as a comic creator. HIS FIRST. He opened his blossoming comics career with an incredibly ambitious 100+ page story that weaves a real natural disaster into an original work of fiction that tackles intense subject matter like addiction, racism, love and then throw in some murder for good measure. Not to mention he illustrates and writes everything – while still managing to find his artistic voice in the process. Rankel’s use of color blows me away. When he first teased the idea of this acid-wash color scheme early on, I was excited for the possibilities and he did not disappoint. He never overuses those vibrant colors, which you’d find mostly in 70’s sci-fi comics or heavy metal album covers — Rankel manages to integrate these crazy yellows and pinks into his story with perfection and I hope he continues to utilise this style on future projects. I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I’m absolutely in love with the style he’s created in the pages of FRANK.

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Gorgeous art aside, I’m very happy with how well Rankel has written his characters’ dialog. He opted for modern-English as opposed to whatever the Hell people would be talking like in 1903 and I’m thankful for that. Nobody wants to google ol’ Timey talk definitions in the middle of a compelling drama. There’s a lot of dialog in FRANK and it all flowed very well – Hell, Rankel even managed to write his story in a way that never holds the reader’s hand, having to explain everything to them — not even when the murder mystery begins to unravel and we discover what really happened in the shocking opening pages of the book. I appreciate that – because it gives the graphic novel this cinematic quality and edge that bumps it above the typical comic book reading session. If I had to compare FRANK to something else I don’t think I really could and that’s kind of a beautiful thing to see and even more stunning when it comes from a creator’s debut offering. Rankel had done some short stories before, most notably the ‘Gary’ short found in the first Rat Queens deluxe hardcover edition, but FRANK is his first true and complete work and I loved it.

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Don’t go in expecting some action spectacle that eats up several two page spreads of a mountain falling to pieces — read FRANK expecting to get swept up in the characters’ personal struggles because that’s the meat of the story: seeing Eve try to uncover what the hell is going on and why the hell the head of this mining company is going to such lengths to potentially stop her and everyone else from discovering the truth. From the lush and original colors, to the captivating and perplex narrative that hooks readers in, FRANK is both faithful to a profound moment in Canadian history while still creating something new and exciting to engage comic fans who may not even care about Canadian history. From the alluring cover, to the calm and composed conclusion, FRANK is an enticing dabble through Canadian history told from one of the most promising prospects in comic books.

Rating: [star rating=”5″]


Additional Info

Ben Rankel is a comic book artist & writer Notable comics credits include two Rat Queens shorts: GARY (Image Comics) and The Absent King (Comixology), as well as Faulty Pump (Fight! Comics/Comixology). His comics, illustration and design work for Sidney York’s 2015 album <3s (HEARTS) was nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award. His comic work has also appeared in Avenue Magazine, GrainsWest Magazine and has been shown at the Roq La Rue gallery in Seattle. Ben lives in Calgary, Alberta with his partner Fiona and their cat, Kupo.

RENEGADE’S ARTS ENTERTAINMENT’s mission is to bring stories to life that we are passionate about and believe others will be too. Operated from a secret Mountain Lair in Canmore Alberta.