By: Jeff Lemire (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Jose Villarrubia (colorist)

The Story: Six crazy monsters versus a planet of demon-aliens.  Piece o’ cake.

The Review: If you ever get the urge to review comics (and let me tell you, it’s a pretty good gig), a useful first step is to evaluate whether the story’s primary goal is to entertain you or to make you think.  Obviously, the ideal would be to do both equally, but that’s not always possible or even appropriate.  Take Lemire’s work on Sweet Tooth and Animal Man; not that these aren’t incredibly engaging works, but they tend to emphasize the cerebral over gut emotion.

Here, where you have a chapter titled, “War of the Monsters Pt. 3: The Titans of Monster Planet!” you have to assume it comes with a little bit of camp.  But just because something’s campy doesn’t mean it has to be dumb.  Like anything else in fiction, if you put a little taste and thought into it, you can have your cake and eat it too.

With a whole planet of creepy-crawlies to deal with, this issue could easily have turned into a mere slay-fest, but Lemire balances it with strong character work.  Even the most action-packed panel has little moments for each team member to shine.  You may find yourself picking favorites.  I have a certain fondness for Griffith, whose eagerness to be a team player (“Don’t worry, Dr. Mazursky, I’ve got your back.”) makes this werewolf seem more like a big dog.

Most intriguing is the (mostly) silent mummy, Khalis.  You wouldn’t think it by his slender frame, but he may turn out to be the real firepower of the team, as he demonstrates this issue (“Whatever he did, it seems to have wiped out the entire spider species.”).  No one, not even Father Time, knows much about the bandaged mercenary, but keep in mind: to get a mummy, someone had to die first.

By far, Frankenstein and his wife (“Ex-wife!” she reminds us) deliver the title’s best chemistry.  Like any broken couple forced together, they manage a modicum of civility only with ample amount of ill-hidden snarkiness; you can feel the sarcasm dripping from their exchanges.  Frank: “Still looking to Father to tell you what to do, my lady?  I thought maybe you’d outgrown that by now.”  Bride, with a major glower: “And what do you suggest, dear?”

This interplay gets to be so addicting you almost forget there’s a dire plot at hand here, but Father Time and Agent Palmer’s frequent telepathic interjections help break up the scenes and keep the story on track.  Through them, Lemire continues to build on the already consuming conflict by adding new wrinkles to the situation: the discovery of a personal energy reading that gives even Time pause and the desperate sentience of the monster planet, screaming through S.H.A.D.E.’s psychic hive mind: “Help me!  Help me!  Help me!

After a couple issues, I’ve concluded that Ponticelli is the perfect man for this title because he manages to design and craft creatures and monsters not only credibly, but with a strangely endearing quality, like he’s bringing to life the most greatest adventures you ever imagined back when you were eight.  It’s just plain delightful seeing the comic expressions he gives to this cast of monsters; check out Velcoro and Griffith’s open-mouthed shock when they realize what they think is a mountain actually turns out to be Monster Planet’s mother spider.  Bliss.

Conclusion: If you need a spoonful of pure, unadulterated fun that never once crosses over into the thoughtless, pick this title up.  I will be crushed if this title doesn’t last for at least a few years to come, so don’t disappoint me!

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Forget Batman—Frankenstein gets my voice for most badass hero of the year: “That’s it, beast!  Bare your fangs!  I’ll gladly pull them from your foul maw!”

– Also, what other hero on Earth can get eaten by a titanic spider monster, then burst out its chest with its massive heart in hand?