By: Jeff Lemire (writer), Alberto Ponticelli (artist), Jose Villarrubia (colorist)
The Story: Frank, don’t you think you’re getting too old for this sh—stuff. I meant “stuff.”
The Review: Frankenstein proves that there’s something to be said for a comic that sets out purely to entertain, and in these trying times, pure entertainment is invaluable. The plot of this opening story arc, aside from its imaginative elements, can’t be simpler: slay the evil creatures or the planet is doomed. The whole issue is basically a lot of stabbing and shooting, with a few jokes thrown in. So why can’t you stop smiling as you read through it?
Perhaps because the action is such over-the-top insanity that you just get dragged along for the ride before you can take exception to it. Lemire makes no apologies for crafting a boyhood fantasy on speed. If his dream is to write about parasitic monster Titans who leech off the life-force of a massive sentient entity that only looks like a planet (complete with ocean), then he’s going to go for it and haters be hanged.
And why stop at living planets? If you’re going to write a government agency composed mostly of mad scientists, you might as well throw in whatever crazy idea your brain can cook up, like the Toybox, a teleportation cube that can be sent through space-time to unleash all manner of goodies upon S.H.A.D.E.’s enemies. This issue, it packs War Wheels, giant, rolling battle stations that can blast energy beams from ports all over its surface, and a G.I. robot squadron, “a battalion of autonomous android soldiers”—with rocket packs. Bliss.
All this would be worthwhile reading in itself, but Lemire also injects plenty of enjoyable character moments as well, giving each team member a chance to shine. It looks like Frank and Nina may have something deeper bubbling under the surface of their business partnership, with our main man turning up the charm as only he can: “I admire your determination, m’lady. This situation reminds me of one of my favorite Milton poe—” There’s also Griffith and Velcoro’s ongoing squabbling, which Bride describes as something you’d hear on “some really trashy reality show…!” You have Bride herself taking charge and proving just as competent a leader as her husband, directing the defeat of a Titan while doing nothing more than “look[ing] good.” Even the men back at S.H.A.D.E. HQ get some page-time, with Father Time and Dr. Belroy gleefully manipulating the War Wheels from game controllers, while the martyred Ray Palmer sighs, “What have I gotten myself into…?”
No adventure would be complete without a short-lived victory followed by a down-to-the-second race to escape before the whole team is doomed in some last-minute catastrophe. After all that, nothing could be better than Frank, the group’s patriarch, begrudgingly giving his approval to his anxiously waiting team: “Hrrn…they’ll do.”
Ponticelli might not be the right artist for a lot of titles out there, but he is the best man for this one. Though his loose, bordering on raw, linework tends to look a bit messy at times, he nonetheless conveys a fantastic sense of scale in his art, letting you see just how enormous the War Wheels are as they literally roll over the crowds of alien monsters before them. Ponticelli also has a knack for giving convincing expressions to our monster heroes, like Frank’s aghast look at being told they only have three minutes to escape the planet before it’s too late.
Conclusion: You can have your simmering dramas and high-concept plots; for my money, Lemire’s go-for-broke, wild and wacky monster tales are just about the funnest reading around.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – Perhaps Monster Planet and Mogo should have a get-together. After all, how often do sentient, planet-sized entities pop up?
– I like the shout-out to Wolverine and Colossus’ buddy-ups when Velcoro suggest he should call his and Griffith’s dual maneuver the “Furball Special.”
– These retro-movie poster covers J.G. Jones has been producing for this series makes me sad that I don’t actually have “Fear of a Monster Planet” film too look forward to in the summer.