One of the stranger books to emerge in the new DCU, “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.,” revives the Grant Morrison/Doug Mahnke update of the character from “Seven Soldiers” fresh on the heels of a “Flashpoint” mini-series. Writer of the “Flashpoint” mini, Jeff Lemire, sticks around, making this issue feel less like a new writer coming aboard and more like someone who has a solid handle on the characters and where they fit in the world.
As an agent of the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive, Frankenstein (or, Frankenstein’s monster more accurately) finds himself coping with a new miniature headquarters, biological robot support staff, a new team of Creature Commandos, and his boss now inhabiting the body of a small Japanese girl. Frankenstein’s reticence at these changes both give the sense of this being a fresh start for readers and sells the idea of just how weird S.H.A.D.E. is. I mean, if Frankenstein walks around pointing out how strange things are, they must be pretty darn strange! Lemire also makes a clever choice by making Ray Palmer one of the regular cast and the one responsible for the teleportation/miniaturization technology that allows for S.H.A.D.E.’s HQ to be tiny and that much more difficult to break into.
With S.H.A.D.E. and the cast defined, the plot Lemire cooks up is fairly simple and straight forward: monsters have popped in a small town, killed everyone, and are now contained by S.H.A.D.E. Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos have six hours to go in, rescue his estranged wife, figure out where the monsters came from, and destroy them or S.H.A.D.E. will nuke the entire area. Considering how weird and open-ended the concept is, beginning with the most basic of plots is smart and allows for Frankenstein and company to kick some butt. It’s a showcase plot, perfect for introducing the characters and series.
The big surprise of the comic is Alberto Ponticelli on art, where he adapts his style to seemingly mimic Lemire’s artistic style. The style he used on “Unknown Soldier” wasn’t leagues away, but, here, his use of thick, messy lines, and slightly misshapen, blocky characters is visually reminiscent of Lemire’s art. Add in Jose Villarrubia, Lemire’s colorist on “Sweet Tooth” and it’s the next best thing to Lemire writing and drawing the book himself.
Even with some similarities, that doesn’t take away from the strange energy that Ponticelli brings to his pages or the compositions. Frankenstein is a hulking creature that doesn’t quite look human, like he was put together wrong somehow. When the S.H.A.D.E. agents enter the town, the pages of them fighting with the monsters are chaotic and full of detail, while maintaining focus and clarity. The casualness with which Frankenstein fires his gun to the side is great and shows how in control he is of the situation.
“Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” was a title I was planning to skip until it became one of the comics I was reviewing this week. That was my lucky break, because it’s a high concept, entertaining comic with great looking art and writing that manages to introduce the characters, the plot, and how they all fit together without seeming heavyhanded. Consider “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” added to my pull list.