Fran is a typical mad scientist, insofar as she lives in a research facility on the top of a mountain, surrounded by dark forests. She performs unspeakable experiments aided by her loyal henchmen and monsters. However, Fran too is an abomination of science. She is the masterpiece of the absent genius Naomitsu Madaraki.
There is a formula that appears in many of the stories. Fran is prompted to perform some form of surgery and the results are unhappy, usually because she has been too enthusiastic to consider the consequences. On one occasion, Fran removes the head of a murdered girl and substitutes other vital organs for parts of the brain. The reanimated head becomes a macabre pet.
The twists are horrifying. In the second chapter, the fate of one of the protagonists comes as a particularly nasty surprise on the very last page. Sometimes, though, we get a happy end. In chapter 11, for example, Fran saves the life of a boy as a favour to his little sister. The means may be questionable—and there is a terrific picture of Fran, with glowing eyes and a maniacal smile, various surgical instruments in her six hands, henchmen behind her—but for the children everything ends happily.
Franken Fran is full of dismemberments and gore. It is also a very enjoyable black comedy. It is the humour that makes it especially worth reading. If it was just a gorefest, this reader wouldn't be particularly interested. Much of the comedy stems from Fran's limited self-awareness.
Fran is a likable character in the context of her comic book universe, a little bit the same way that Homer Simpson is a likable character. Like Homer, she wouldn't be pleasant to have around in real life. What makes her endearing is her childlike innocence. "Childlike" is an important modifier here. A child doesn't have a developed sense of moral responsibility. Fran is displeased when things go awry, but she never feels guilty. She is more likely to feel unappreciated for her efforts. Like a child, she feels that her good intentions are sufficient to clear her from blame.
I believe that the intended demographic is older teenage boys. That target audience may also go some way towards explaining the gratuitous nudity that appears now and then.
This review is based on the first two volumes, as published in German.