Or – “FIRE BAAAD!”
Part of me desperately wants to point out that ‘Frankenstein’ was the name of the doctor who created the creature, and that in the most correct sense, this book features Frankenstein’s Monster in action.
That part of me, however, is a colossal douche, and thus, I am ignoring him.(Also: It’s pronounced ‘en-cy-clo-paeee-dee-ah.’)
FRANKENSTEIN: AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #1
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Alberto Ponticell
Cover Artist: J.G. Jones
Colorist: Jose Villarubia
Letterer: Pat Brosseau
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99
Previously on Frankenstein – Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: The monster known as Frankenstein first arrived in the DCU by way of Grant Morrison’s sprawling epic ‘Seven Soldiers’ arc some years ago, and has sporadically been appearing in various places ever since, as one of the finest field operatives of S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive) and has allied himself with a great many of the DCU’s heroes. Weirdly enough, when the Flashpoint Universe debuted, Frankie was front and center, in a tale tying him to the classic DC property ‘The Creature Commandos.’ We now know that S.H.A.D.E. (Super Heroes And Dead Egalitarians) has survived the ‘Barry Allen Event’ and changes to reality, but… What’s up with Frankenstein?
As this issue begins, we find that not only is S.H.A.D.E. (Some Hoser Attacks, Dey Eject) still in action, but that their mandate has expanded due to the influx of strange visitors and dark knights and like that. Their new headquarters is staffed by artificial life forms, and they’re receiving additional funding to deal with all the goings-on in the relaunched DCU. Their science liaison (Doctor Ray Palmer ((!!))) is unsure, but Father Time, head of S.H.A.D.E. (So, He’s A Darling Eight-year-old) is enjoying their new status. We don’t get as much personal time with Frankenstein as we did with Lemire’s other relaunched title, but what we see of Frank’s mind is intriguing. He quotes Milton in times of stress, has moral and ethical problems with the creation of artificial life (as well he probably should) and doesn’t take kindly to Father Time’s opinions on his relationship with his wife. Said wife has been sent in by Father Time (who is now in the body of the cute little girl with the gun seen on the cover, as he “upgrades” his form every decade or so) to investigate monstrous doings in a small town in Washington, and Frankenstein is going in to find her, as her communications have been cut off…
AND IT AIN’T PHIL HARTMAN…
The art in this issue feels very much what my mind calls “Vertigo-style,” a rough-hewn, scratchy look that gives the characters an almost primitive appeal. Frank hooks up with the Creature Commandos (mostly the same guys we saw in the alternate Flashpoint universe, including a vampire, a mummy, a werewolf and a ‘creature-from-the-Black-Lagoon’ aquatic type) and they attempt to find the source of the monsters destroying Bone Lake. It’s all very spy-thriller, and the expositionary dialogue is handled by text boxes from the S.H.A.D.E. (Strange Hardware And Downloading Entity) central computer mainframe, which is a clever way to fit in all the explanations the writer wants without there being a lot of people having to shove it into conversation. The issue even ends with the computer attempting to answer the question “What happens next?” as we fade to black on the town of Bone Lake. It’s a pretty cool narrative trick…
THE VERDICT: MAKES YOU MISS PHIL HARTMAN.
This issue is an interesting introduction to Frankenstein and S.H.A.D.E. (Sometimes Having A Drink Exacerbates), but as much as I like Frankenstein, I am a little put off by the introduction of the Commandos into the book. A few years ago, Marvel put out a lovely, underrated book called “Nick Fury and his Howling Commandos” which had a similar riff to this, and I can’t help but have misgivings that the title isn’t being sold as a team book, but it clearly is. Having read the recent ‘Creature Commandos’ mini helps, as I know these characters (sort of), and I do remember the original Commandos fondly, but for some reason part of me worries that there’s too many new things going on all at once, and that I don’t want to see the book descend into chaos. Add to that the vast difference between cover and interior art (not that the interiors are bad, but half the selling point of the book for me was how GOOD Frankie, The Bride and Father Time looked in the solicits) and Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 earns a strong-but-cautious 3 out of 5 stars overall. I enjoyed the character and the premise, though, and I’ll be back next issue for more old-school monster smashy-smashy with random philosophy bits here and there.
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Why do you suppose Frankenstein gets the most ‘air-time’ of all the freaky Morrison concepts that came out of Seven Soldiers?