By Andy Frisk
September 16, 2011 - 00:33
Frankenstein is called back from his vacation on Mars by his employers S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive) to investigate and battle a mass of monsters that are attacking and taking over the town of Bone Lake, Washington. Frank’s estranged wife has been sent in to exterminate the monsters, but all contact has been lost with her. Frank, who usually works alone, isn’t too thrilled to have a field team of supernatural/superhuman agents sent in with him. There is a huge amount of monsters of an unknown origin overrunning the city though, and it looks like Frank is going to need all the help he can get.
The first issue of Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. undoubtedly displays some obvious similarities to Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and B.P.R.D. The organization that Frankenstein works for appears to be the new DCnU’s first line of defense against the things that go bump in the night, or skin dogs and men alive for dinner. This book would be a total rip off not even worth bothering with if it didn’t have two of the best talents currently employee by DC Comics right now working on it, and these two are the only reason for checking Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. out. While the comparisons to Mignola’s now near iconic character(s) are inevitable, Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli manage to pull off a story with enough originality, which benefits massively from its positioning smack dab in the middle of the DCnU, that the series might end up being a bit of a sleeper hit.
Jeff Lemire, who is currently writing the brilliant Sweet Tooth saga for DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint, puts together a debut issue that is an excellent combination of introductory tale, horror story set up, and action mash up. There’s plenty of mystery surrounding the monsters ravaging Bone Lake, WA, as well as surrounding some of Frankenstein’s new field team of characters which includes an amphibious scientist who resembles the Creature from The Black Lagoon, a cognizant and respectful werewolf, a medic mummy whose origin is shrouded in mystery, and a somewhat disrespectful vampiric cross breed. A character named Father, who is ironically embodying the body of a young girl around the age of 8 or 10 years of age (seems Father has to inhabit a new body every so many decades as “the old one was past due”), leads the organization, which is currently also employing Dr. Ray Palmer (the once and future Atom) as a government liaison who’s there to “make sure you don’t abuse the funding and technology that’s been made available to you” by the Federal Government. He also is the creator of the new S.H.A.D.E. base that utilizes his shrinking technology, which Frank isn’t too fond of. Think the Bottle City of Kandor doubling as a high tech/superhuman/paranormal action and research command center and you get the picture.
The above characters, set up, and uniqueness of the organization’s headquarters, mixed with some pretty deftly hinted at personal and character quandaries and mysteries, and Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 turns out to be actually a pretty decent read. Lemire does a great job coming up with all of this and introducing it in a way that really isn’t confusing or requires a previous knowledge of the characters or continuity. I know next to nothing about Frankenstein’s previous DCU incarnation, and thankfully didn’t need to get into issue #1’s story.
Perhaps the most thrilling thing about this debut issue, for me at least, was seeing artist Alberto Ponticelli back in action again and helming the artistic chores on another ongoing book. He was half of the creative team with Joshua Dysart on Vertigo’s brilliant Unknown Soldier series that met an untimely end. (By the way DiDio, where the heck is Unknown Soldier in the DCnU? Now there’s a war book that I’d buy—especially if Dysart was at the helm). Ponticelli’s style was perfect for portraying the horrors of the civil wars in Africa that was the focus of Unknown Soldier, and he puts his unique and jagged style to excellent use bringing this cast of horror movie archetypes to life along with the monsters ravaging Bone Lake.
Overall, Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. has the potential to be one of the more interesting New 52 books, even though it really, in the end, is pretty much a DCnU incarnation of Hellboy and B.P.R.D. As stated though, with Lemire and Ponticelli at the helm, this book should be unique enough, and written and drawn well enough, to hold its own in a growing crowd of supernaturally superhuman focusing comics.
Rating: 8.5 /10