Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1
Written by Jeff Lemire; Art by Alberto Ponticelli
Sep 16, 2011 Web Exclusive
Frankenstein's Monster, commonly known as just Frankenstein, is an agent of the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive (S.H.A.D.E.), a weird governmental task force that seems to be tasked with combatting and protecting the helpless public from unearthly and monstrous threats. It's a sort of James Bond meets Cthulu and we're treated to its delightfully odd modus operandi right off the bat. Agent Frankenstein is called back from his vacation on Mars for a mission; we're with Frank as he enters S.H.A.D.E.'s new base, the Ant Farm, for the first time. The Ant Farm is a "mobile, 3-inch indestructible globe" that only the combined hyper-science of teleportation and shrink rays make possible; the super-ball-sized HQ flies around the earth at a 2,000 miles orbit, transporting S.H.A.D.E. agents wherever they are needed.
S.H.A.D.E. is an agency that was first introduced in the Frankenstein miniseries (issue 3, to be exact) from 2005 by Grant Morrison and Dough Mahnke as part of Morrison's epic "Seven Soldiers" project. From that series, Frankenstein was characterized as a stoic undead warrior and near force of nature; when he spoke, it was declarative, direct, and almost Biblical in making judgments. Jeff Lemire's Frankenstein is visually similar, but dialog-wise seems more human, outwardly inquisitive, and more conversational. At one point he's talking about his "relationship." It makes him seem less implacable, slightly more wishy-washy. But it also makes him seem more human, which may be what a team book joining Frankenstein with the Creature Commandos needs, but it's an interpretation that's not quite as enjoyable where the main character himself is concerned.
But maybe it's a decent call, seeing as how the supporting cast is pretty interesting and expands the possibilities for drama and story significantly beyond what a "wrath of Frank" solo book could offer. Cases in point: a little DC comics geek porn in the form of Ray Palmer (that's the shrinking superhero The Atom, or at least he was in old continuity) being the science liaison for S.H.A.D.E., and the man who enables the Ant Farm's shrink tech to work. There's Father Time, who's "rebooted" his form randomly and is now sporting the form of a Japanese school girl, complete with sailor dress, plus domino mask. Then there are the Creature Commandos, otherwise known as Division M, "S.H.A.D.E. science division's latest pet project." There's a scientist who's turned herself into a "creature from the black lagoon" type; a werewolf; a bat-winged vampire hybrid; and, most delightfully, a mummy who functions as the team's medic. Definitely tickles with a "Dark Stalkers" vibe. The Bride is also around, but so brief in this book we can't say too much, other than she appears to still have the Shiva-like appearance that Mahnke and Morrison gave her in the mini.
Mad concepts splicing horror, science, magic, and survival fiction rule this book. The art is good, though I would submit that a horror-infused comic could be better served by a more detailed style (as in Lemire's other nuDCU book, Animal Man, which has gut-turning detail from Travel Foreman), because the reader need not be spared from the monstrous, disgusting, and unearthly. Ponticelli's storytelling skills are all there, with interesting angles and sometimes-frenzied action.
With a serviceable plot, cool characters, decent interaction of such, and fun, mad concepts, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 sets up a premise that has potential for producing a winner. It's not quite as strong out of the box as Lemire's Animal Man was, but that's not an insult, just a point of reference. (www.dccomics.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 5/10