After a four-issue opening story and last month’s crossover with “O.M.A.C.,” issue six of “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” manages to pack in both the first part of a new story arc and a self-contained tale. The balancing act between the two is pulled off masterfully, shunting Frankenstein to a mission that only needs half an issue and allowing the beginning of the new story to come out of events at the Ant Farm without him. Both stories indulge Alberto Ponticelli’s twisted, strange art style, something that’s quickly becoming the best thing about the title.
The Frankenstein portion of the story has him and three of the more useless (at least they are here) members of the Creature Commandoes heading down the Mekong River in Vietnam to take care of some old business named Colonel Quantum, a former S.H.A.D.E. super operative who’s a cross between Dr. Manhattan and Kurtz. During the Vietnam War, he came to realize that the entire conflict was pointless and took off into the jungle. Now, he’s a tumor-ridden immortal begging to die, which Frankenstein obliges.
There isn’t enough meat on this story to warrant more space, fleshing out some of Frankenstein’s past and filling in gaps about S.H.A.D.E. more than anything. Ponticelli cuts loose on the diseased Quantum, a hunched over mass of tumors and disproportionate limbs. He’s pathetic, compared to Ponticelli’s Frankenstein, who seems to have a constant sneer on his face. The visual connection between Vietnam-era Quantum and the nude Humanids who take the spotlight in the other half of the issue, is hard to overlook, except the Humanids seem moments away from flying apart in a mess of liquid.
When one of the Humanids is granted consciousness by Brother Eye, the sentient satellite from “O.M.A.C.,” it infects the others and looks to point towards a full-out rebellion of S.H.A.D.E.’s reusable workforce. Thankfully, Lemire doesn’t go somewhere so obvious and puts the Humanids to a different use, working the background as we get a sense of what the Ant Farm is like during S.H.A.D.E.’s downtime. With no missions on deck besides the one Frankenstein is leading, there’s a sense of meandering in the Ant Farm scenes. What does an organization like S.H.A.D.E. do when there aren’t threats to stop and a world to save? Thankfully, Brother Eye and the Humanids are happy to give S.H.A.D.E. something to do…
“Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” #6 delivers the best of both worlds in storytelling: a self-contained story and the first part of a multi-issue arc, showing off how Jeff Lemire can balance the two. Both revolve around exploring S.H.A.D.E. and the organization’s past in its own way, ending with an intriguing cliffhanger.