By: Jeff Lemire (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Jose Villarrubia (colorist)
The Story: Oh, the humanity! Figuratively speaking.
The Review: Despite getting his own mini under Grant Morrison’s ambitious Seven Soldiers series, Frankenstein remained, like that series, a very niche property. He doesn’t exactly lend himself to all kinds of stories the way other characters can. How often does a story call for a literature-conceived, sword and gun wielding monster with an erudite and morose turn of phrase? Sure, you and I might think every story should call for that, but alas—times are rough.
It takes a patient hand and loving heart to give Frankie the attention he needs to prosper, and Lemire has proven himself amply supplied in both. Plus, he has a wonderful flair for your classic, old-school sci-fi. While his material over on Animal Man has more of an edgy, intense, supernatural flavor that feels very modern, what we get here is more in-your-face, raucous, and bold, making no pretense of being anything more than a monster mash-up.
Not to imply that Frankenstein doesn’t have a certain sophistication of its own. Lemire puts in an effort to flesh out the inner workings of S.H.A.D.E., an organization that has made a fairly recognizable name for itself in the DCU without really letting on what it does or how it works. Now you get enticing glimpses that make you eager for more, like S.H.A.D.E.’s HQ: “Ant Farm: a mobile, 3-inch indestructible globe…a hybrid of teleportation and shrink technology…has its own artificial gravity and atmosphere…vessel for S.H.A.D.E. City: a microscopic metropolis…”
At first, all this tech seems highly elaborate for the foes of our first mission, a legion of your typical slimy, green, tentacled critters that have just overrun a small town and threaten to spread endlessly from there. There’s a lot of ‘em, but they don’t quite generate the awe-inspiring presence as, say, the horrors from Swamp Thing. Still, the fisherman who first encounters the beasts stammers, “It’s—it’s finally happening, isn’t it,” indicating a more foreboding origin for them than might appear.
S.H.A.D.E. intends to fight fire with fire, and sends in not only Frankie, but a whole bunch of monsters to tackle the problem. If you read Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown, you’ll recognize most of the faces here: Griffith (think Steve Rogers if instead of a muscle-bound Adonis, the serum turned him into a werewolf); Velcoro, a sarcastic vampire; and Nina, chain-wielding lagoon monster. You also get Khalis, the only newbie, and also a mummy, which already makes him a winner in my book.
Ponticelli’s sketchy style manages to have just enough looseness to look flexible and fun, but stays tight enough to maintain a semi-serious air. If Mummies Alive! or Gargoyles ever get turned into comics, Ponticelli would be the man to draw them. He doesn’t skimp on the detail when needed, like his rendering of the Ant Farm floating above a lovely Manhattan cityscape, but he also purposefully slackens his lines during action sequences to let them move freely. Villarrubia offers a dark, but warm range of colors also emphasizes the dual tones of the issue.
Conclusion: A rollicking good time in a story of pure action-adventure. If the plots turn out as colorful as the characters, Lemire has another hit in his hands.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – “She’s been your wife in name only for at least the last seven decades, and you know it.” Ouch. Let’s hope this newest adventure will be just the thing to put the spark back in Frankie and Bride’s relationship. Also, that line is solid gold.
– Priest in a hidden dungeon filled with young children. Oh, boy. Pray it doesn’t turn out as bad as it sounds.