By: Matt Kindt (story), Alberto Ponticelli (pencils), Wayne Faucher (inks), Jose Villarrubia (colors)
The Story: Poetry’s all well and good, but will it fend off human-sized insect assassins?
The Review: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Baskin Robbins (and mark my words, there’s a lot more than one), it’s that even with a revolving door of 31-plus-or-minus flavors of ice-cream, people still gravitate toward the classics: chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. In other words, some things just have more popular appeal, occasionally for reasons that make sense, most often for no reason at all.
In the same way, some comic book characters are more accessible than others, not just for readers, but writers as well. Whereas everyone and his mother have ideas for Batman stories (or, at least, glorified opinions disguised as ideas), you’d be a little harder pressed to find the person who’ll say, “Frankenstein? Oh, yeah—I know how to write that dude.”
Clearly, Jeff Lemire, for whatever reason, is that person. And with such a weird, cultish-type character, you need a writer with that level of attunement with him to convince others he’s worth their interest. Kindt tries hard, but his is more of a simplification of Lemire’s portrayal. For one thing, Frank may have poetic turns of phrase at times, but this excessive quotage of poetry just gets annoying. And this comes from a guy who loves Byron; I can only imagine the puzzled irritation of non-Byron groupies.
Kindt also disappoints in his sci-fi imaginings. He throws one concept after another at you like water balloons, as if eager to prove how many he has, but they mostly leave you dry. At times he adds meaningless detail to ideas in an attempt to make them more original: “microscopic dark-matter parasites…that feast on living flesh…” Other times he introduces concepts and fails to adequately define them. Velcoro may observe, with natural confusion, that the impoverished Untropolans live in penthouses, but is that alone really enough to say the world is “topsy-turvy”? Sometimes Kindt simply refuses to explain what he’s talking about, as with the “classified” time sniper.
It’s also troubling that Kindt doesn’t respect Lemire’s last arc enough to play out its resolution. With Frank still disgusted by Father Time’s actions, his “hiatus” seemed the perfect opportunity to delve into his personal history or have a standalone adventure. But Kindt seems determined to make this title his from the start, and so we have no reference to Frank and Tim’s strained relationship. Instead, we have a plotline about S.H.A.D.E. traitors which fails to interest at any point, and a lot of random imagery whose nature (Flashback? Delusion?) is never defined.
Originally, I was going to make this point in the Musings, but it bothers me enough to merit a place here: that opening scene with the librarian. Does anyone else find her attempt to seduce Frank disturbing? First of all, there’s absolutely no reason for her to do it, since it has no connection to her chatter about S.H.A.D.E. moles and ever-present agents. Second, Frank is technically not alive, so she’s basically exhibiting necrophiliac behavior. Last, it just seems like a cheap way to exploit a commonplace librarian fetish for storytelling excitement.
It’s a pity the script doesn’t quite stand up, because Ponticelli does his best work yet on this title with this issue. Faucher’s clean inks give all of Ponticelli’s pencils definition, but they’re not tyrannical, allowing a lot of fine detail to come through. The characters have more texture and definition than we’ve seen them before, and emotions feel more present ever. If Untropolis comes across as a compelling, unnatural world, it’s all because of the art.
Conclusion: Granted, I came into this with grave doubts about Kindt’s ability to prop this title up after Lemire left, but it’s disappointing nonetheless to be proven mostly correct. Well on its way to Drophood.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – I do feel sorry for Kindt though. They still have Lemire’s name on the cover.