By: Jeff Lemire (writer), Ibraim Roberson (artist), Pete Pantazis (colorist)
The Story: Avoid playing “Monster Mash” around this Frankenstein. He’s not the party type.
The Review: With an Elseworlds tale, the better known and established the characters, the more enjoyable it is to see all the changes to their personality and history. But with Frankenstein, you have not the original monster from Mary Shelley’s novel, but Grant Morrison’s adaptation of the character from his Seven Soldiers maxi-series, which itself had only a tenuous connection to the DCU proper. Spin a character like that fresh, and you may as well consider him brand-new.
And on those terms, this tie-in stands incredibly well on its own. Like Flashpoint: Secret Seven, you don’t really get to see the altered world at large—at least, not yet—as most of the plot stays close to the characters without really linking to the significant events of Flashpoint. That said, most of the issue takes place in the past, and some of the actions the team takes (especially a doozy by Frankenstein in Nazi Germany) almost certainly led to some of the world’s changes.
With this combination of horror/sci-fi-type characters, a WWII setting, and old-school superhero conventions (like team names: Creatures of the Unknown channels the spirit of the Challengers of the Unknown, in my mind one of the most awesome team names ever), the title has a distinct Silver Age flavor. This is exactly the kind of material Lemire takes to, and with his attention to detail and dialogue, the story feels credible and modern underneath its retro tradition.
The issue really comes to life thanks to how well the characters stand on their own. Each has a distinct voice that instantly shows you the soul beneath their monstrous exteriors: worrywart Nina (a Lagoon Boy sort of creature), childlike Griffith (werewolf), Velcoro (vampire) as the team’s acerbic wit, and of course, Frankie himself, whose warrior-preacher role comes off both heavy-handed yet irresistibly appealing: “These ‘men” will soon feel the sweet kiss of the Archangel Michael’s cold blade across their rodent necks.” Oh, Frank. Never change, please.
The villain fares less well in the development department. Robert Crane shows up in the middle of the story without any fanfare or intro, takes control of the situation of an instant, and by the time the story gets back on track (sixty-plus years into the future), he doesn’t reappear. You’d think the senior, monster-bashing military man so nonplussed by the Creature Commandos’ escape would turn out to be Crane, but he’s ID’d as General Adam.
Just like with Secret Seven, since we’re dealing with obscure characters here, a lot of time is spent fleshing out their origins, so much so that you feel the real meat of the story only begins by the end of the issue. Still, the team has a clear goal, a couple running conflicts, and the potential to affect some other Flashpoint storylines; that deserves some confidence for the next issue.
Roberson’s dramatic, character-focused style does a lot of work to bring out credible emotions from the team’s monstrous features. Even with Nina’s fishy facial fins in the way, her girlish anxiousness comes through, and it’s fairly amazing Roberson can pull off jokey mirth from Velcoro’s vampiric face. But when it comes to action, Roberson’s work looks rather heavy and stiff, giving a posed lack of energy to everything.
Conclusion: A fun revival of the Creature Commandos property, which bodes well for when Lemire takes it up again as an ongoing in DC’s fall relaunch of titles.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – G.I. Robot. Oh, man. That’s an ill-conceived movie based on a toy line just waiting to happen. Speaking of which, anyone planning to see Real Steel?