By: Jeff Lemire (writer), Ibraim Roberson & Alex Massacci (artists), Pete Pantazis (colorist)
The Story: You grew up in a swamp? You really are from the sticks, aren’t you?
The Review: The vast majority of Elseworlds turn out either uninspired or middling, leaving a much smaller percentage with premises strong enough to support an enjoyable one-shot series. But every now and then you get a really terrific story that gets you attached to its parallel world and characters. In those cases, you’re almost always out of luck, because chances are they won’t come back anytime soon, a real waste of creative potential.
So right around now seems a good time as any to thank our lucky stars Lemire will be back with Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos in the fall, because it’s easy to see there are a lot of great stories left to be told with these characters. Don’t take that to mean this issue is perfect or even particularly outstanding, because flaws do riddle the script.
For one thing, the plot is a bit slow to get moving in a productive way, as last issue acted mainly as a prologue and this one only just manages to give our heroes a vague destination (Romania—because that place is just a hotspot of fun lately), but no real mission statement. There still lingers a question about what they’ll do with themselves in this modern world they’ve woken up in, especially with their former military commissioners gunning for them.
Maria Shrieve, monster-hunting descendant of original ally Matthew Shrieve, may prove the answer. It can’t fail to puzzle you how she clearly knows the difference between the original Commandos and those who ultimately turned on her family (“…these creatures weren’t loyal foot soldiers like you…”), yet she still nurses a rash, misdirected resentment against the ones her grandfather held dear. But amidst all that somewhat unnecessary drama you can definitely see how our heroes will prove useful to her personal crusade.
But really, I’d be happy following these characters around even if they did hardly anything. They have a rich team dynamic, and it grows richer this issue as we get to see them pair off and interact more personally. Velcoro almost steals the show with his wise-guy lip (to Griffith: “You think there’s anything going on between [Frankenstein and Nina]? …I’m joking…furball.”), but it’s also endearing to see his sincere attachment to his comrades (…Wait up!”). And it’s only going to get better, if that final page is any indication; every Frankenstein needs his Bride.
Besides, you can always trust in Lemire’s thoughtful plotting. Even though Frank and Nina don’t really get much done in her father’s lab, she points out several props—a photo of her father in Arctic gear and a bottle labeled “Western Moat”—that may have some significance. Lemire’s not the type to drop in these kinds of details for no reason, so no doubt they’ll come into play later on in some substantial way.
Roberson’s hyper-realistic, poised style gets replaced by Massacci’s sketchy fare halfway through the issue, which really blunts the serious tone of the story. The expressions become less subtle, the action more cartoony, and overall it just looks unimpressive, sloppy, and run-of-the-mill. The last few pages in particular look as if Massacci barely had time to draw outlines for his art before Pantazis jumped in to color.
Conclusion: Weak art in the second half and slightly slow plotting water down what would otherwise be a much more enjoyable issue, though Lemire continues to convince this is a series worth reading.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I really like how everybody calls Frankenstein either Frank or Frankie—gives him a very Sinatra-esque flavor, don’t you think?