Who would have known that dusting off the old DC property of Frankenstein would yield one of their best books of the relaunch? It helps putting Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli together as their styles work in unison on these pages. Frankenstein, and his other agents of S.H.A.D.E., are investigating a set of monstrous problems in a small town. Here the crew find the source of the problem which only leads to the next, larger, problem.
Frankenstein is an imposing figure at all times in this book. The way he carries himself is sure, and the way he treats his subordinates is firm. This is a general on the frontlines of a monstrous war. The way Lemire and Ponticelli form this character is a brilliant showcase of class and elegance mixed with the gruffness of the undead. There is purpose and poise to this patchwork man, and he carries the title easily on his green and decayed shoulders.
The four page flashback sequence for Nina Mazursky is an interlude of beauty and style. The full pages deliver the story and inform the character. It feels somewhere close to being a little cliche but that doesn’t stop it from painting this new character in complete brushstrokes. Her origin is a tad familiar in broad terms but how it informs her actions going forward is going to be the true test of quality.
Once the story delves underwater, things get crazy. Ponticelli lets rip with a majestic underwater battle. The fluidity of the creatures and their blows are organic and dynamic. Then Lemire uses this opportunity to steer the narrative into darker areas as well as some very pulpy sci-fi zones. The concept of the sacrifices is brutal and the single panel showing such acts is horrific even in its brevity. For all the monsters and fanged creatures, the humans come off as the ones with the highest proclivity for evil.
Ponticelli’s pages are a blast to read and you can spend plenty of time going over them again and again. The linework is rough and the experimentation open. These pages feel like a high concept sci-fi/horror comic should. There’s a gorgeous nature behind the rendering of such inhospitable beasts. Jose Villarrubia’s colors mute and darken the monsters so our imagination has time to dwell in the shadows.
“Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” is the perfect comic for those who grew up on old EC anthology titles. There’s a blend of the terror as well as the spectacle of the unknown. This is the breakout sci-fi hit of the year that has no problems going from laboratory pseudo-scientific exposition to underwater horrors to a battle beyond the stars. There’s the feeling this comic might just do anything and such uncertainty only adds to the excitement.