By: Matt Kindt (story), Alberto Ponticelli (pencils), Wayne Faucher (inks), Jose Villarrubia (colors)

The Story: Now you know why S.H.A.D.E. doesn’t advertise its retirement package.

The Review: I just got my copy of the first volume of Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. and it reminded me of all the things I loved about Jeff Lemire’s take on the series: the zany action, the B-movie plot elements, and the understated (but not underplayed) character work, which included Lemire’s special take on Frank himself.  I got a bit of flak in my criticism of Kindt’s version of the man-made monster last month, so a bit of comparative analysis is warranted here.

What I loved most about the Lemire Frankenstein was not just his dedication to rooting out evil the old-fashioned way (read: with big swords), but also his sense of compassion and old-timey manners.  We know how unaffected and sympathetic he can be to those he becomes close to, be it his comrades or his wife, even estranged as they are.  This Frank made peace with his identity long ago, which gives him intense conviction in most everything he does.

The current Frank riddled with angst, self-loathing, and extreme aloofness—I can live without.  Maybe had I read this version from the start, I could get to like him, but as the situation stands, the transition from Lemire to Kindt feels like too fast a gear-shift for me.  I confess I find it very hard to accept a creative change which actually strips a character of his complexity and reduces him to a type, and Frank has just become the emotionless bruiser type.

Also, if I manifest an unusually bitter dislike for Kindt’s takeover of this title, it has a lot to do with his disregard of previous continuity.  Such a thing is a hazard of the variable nature of comics, and hardly worth calling attention to, but it does wreak havoc when it comes to niche series.  You can make every kind of variation you want to with chocolate ice-cream and people will still love it because it’s chocolate ice-cream.  But the offbeat folks who enjoy rum raisin probably have a lower tolerance for change to their pet flavor.

Ultimately, the one thing which turns off Kind’s conception of the series for me gets summed up in Frank’s description of himself as a plodding “beast.”  Now we all know that isn’t true, but what I find disagreeable about that moment is I don’t think Frank believes that either.  His words and actions up to date indicate that he views himself as an arm of righteousness, someone worthy enough to wield the blade of archangels as he metes out justice.  So to have him dwell on his composition of “the cadavers of murders, psychopaths, rabid dogs,” just seems wrong to me.

Well, at least there’s always Ponticelli.  He still draws Frank and the rest of S.H.A.D.E. like few others can, working both the cartoonish nature of the series with the utter seriousness with which the story plays out.  With Faucher on board, Ponticelli’s details have only grown more intricate, without losing their playful charm.  If you look at the city landscape within Leviathan, it has a kind of delicacy that would not have been there at the beginning of this series.

Conclusion: As a benefit of the doubt, I’ll give this issue a higher grade than how I really feel about it, but admit that my personal attachment to the title this used to be obliges me to Drop it.

Grade: B-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Nina and Frank.  Hoo boy.  That’s going to be a troubled relationship down the line, I’m expecting.