If I had to sum up Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1, I would have to say weirdness abounds in this comic but that’s all good. In fact it’s all great! DC’s version of Frankenstein is based on the classic monster from Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s book, but looks more like the Universal version armed to the teeth. He originated in a Batman Detective Comics story from 1948 and since then has been reworked over the years by Len Wein, and more recently, Grant Morrison in his Seven Soldiers of Victory epic. Now Jeff Lemire takes his spin on the character with Alberto Ponticelli handling both penciling and inking and colors by Jose Villarrubia and what a spin it is!
The book starts innocently enough, but quickly end up horrible as monsters rampage through the community of Bone Lake, Washington. The scene cuts to Frankenstein coming to S.H.A.D.E.’s new headquarters, the Ant Farm, which a miniaturized impenetrable super fortress flying over New York. Then there’s Father Time, who you’ll have to see for yourself. There’s really no time to ask questions, and all the craziness is accepted at face value by Frankenstein and the other members of S.H.A.D.E. as they enter a Matrix-like tech to go over the monster attack, and while it’s something that may have come off as stupid from another writer, Lemire pulls it and all the other surreal aspects perfectly.
A surprise cameo in the book is made by Ray Palmer, who is better known as the Atom but did not indicate any connection to that identity here. However, the reason he works with S.H.A.D.E. is his shrinking technology and it powering the Ant Farm. Then there’s Division M, better known as the Creature Commandos who appropriately are called in to fight the monster invasion. While I don’t know much about the Creature Commandos other than they date back to the 1980’s, you don’t need to know anything to see that this new version of the commandos is anything but campy; they are very bizarre but totally kick butt. There’s a merwoman scientist complete with a fish bowl helmet, a werewolf who’s eager to please, a vampire created by the offshoot of the Man-Bat serum, and a mummy, who is crazily (but somehow appropriately) the medic. To top it all off, Frankenstein’s four armed wife and fellow agent, the Bride makes an appearance too, but she has gone missing after investigating the monsters. It’s up to Frank and the gang to get her back.
The art, similar to Travel Foreman’s work in Lemire’s other DC book, Animal Man, is very different than your usual artistic fare. However, the art’s weirdness is perfect for the surreal world of Frankenstein and S.H.A.D.E. There’s a great two page spread action scene depicting Frank and the Commandos taking on monsters that is illustrated really well. I really like the Creature Commandos’ design and Frankenstein looks pretty intimidating. I really dig what I’m seeing here. Ponticelli is doing great work and Villarrubia’s colors add nicely to the mix.
Despite all the monsters and mayhem, horror’s not the driving force here. It’s more sci-fi, dark humor, great action and all around weirdness. With issue #2 now available (and also a good read), see for yourself why Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. should be on your pull list and what the fuss over Jeff Lemire is about. Lemire brings his best and has a great art team backing him up to bring out some pretty interesting characters and places in the new DC Universe. It’s weird, it’s different and it rocks because of it.