Doc Frankenstein #2 Review


Reviewer: Iain Burnside
Story Title: N/A

Written by: The Wachowski Brothers
Illustrated by: Steve Skroce
Colored by: Jason Keith
Lettered by: Comicraft
Assistant Editor: Sharon Bray
Editor: Spencer Lamm
Publisher: Burlyman Entertainment

From the Wachowskis’ introduction to issue #1, discussing Jack Kirby’s work…

“He drew things that could not exist in any other graphic medium. He drew the impossible. Which is why, for us, so many comics today are disappointments. In a medium where you can draw anything, how can so many artists be content to simply imitate what’s already been done in film and television?”

“Geof Darrow and Steve Skroce draw the kind of comics we like to read; they take us places we’ve never been, they show us action we’ve never seen. They are the reason we started this company. To create a place where people like us could see the stuff that only comics can do, a place where people can still find the Jack stuff, the impossible stuff.”

As soon as I read those words, I just knew that I was going to enjoy the title. The rest of issue #1 certainly didn’t let me down, and in issue #2 things continue rattling along with bullet-train momentum.

As you might expect from a book with Kirby as a surrogate father, this one is all about the artwork. Scintillating, scorching, retina-scratching artwork that is enough to light the fanboy fires of even the most jaded of readers. Seriously, if Grant Morrison were an artist then this is the sort of thing that we would get. Skroce certainly earns the praises bestowed upon him by the Wachowskis. It’s just a shame that the storyline attached to it doesn’t quite match up.

Basically, this Doc Frankenstein is the legendary Frankenstein’s Monster that we all know from Mary Shelley’s story. Only, he lived through to the present day and currently resides in a purpose-built citadel in Parts Unknown, USA along with numerous other outcasts from society. Despite numerous attempts to bridge the xenophobic gap, including protecting America from attack by various actual monsters, he remains hated and feared by the world he protects. Playing the Brotherhood of Mutants in this rather familiar setting, we have the Roman Catholic Church. They were a chronic thorn in Doc’s side throughout the 20th century, and now here in the 21st they have launched an all-out final assault to try and bring what they perceive as an abomination of God’s will to its knees.

What this entails is nothing short of an invasion. Skroce raises the bar higher still with his work on these scenes, as the Church sends wave after wave after wave of Kirbyplane after Kirbyplane after Kirbyplane to the citadel. In print, it’s just as exhilarating as watching Zion’s last stand in MATRIX REVOLUTIONS. Colourist Jason Keith matches Skroce’s imagination every step of the way, contrasting the darkness of the flashbacks with the dynamic daytime aerial battles and all the way showcasing the visceral, video-game vernacular of the violence. It all ends rather badly for our protagonist and there is a quite wonderful close-up of his eyes – his soul – on the final page that lets you know everything you need to know about his character.

Meanwhile, the plot continues as a not-entirely-necessary distraction. There is a traitor in the ranks to be swiftly dealt with. There is a love interest that, in fine Wachowski tradition, is equal parts Ripley and Emma Frost. There is a neat little reference to HALO that will raise a smile. There is an even bigger and more Kirbyfied technological threat lying in wait. There is a brief bit of background story on the deacon leading the Church attack to try and justify his extreme behaviour towards the end of the issue. It doesn’t entirely convince, but it is a start.

Still, although the story is certainly nothing new, that is not a major obstacle for this title. After all, how many truly original stories can possibly be told? The beautiful thing about the Wachowskis is that, despite their tendencies to get carried away trying to prove how well-read they are, they recognize this point and thus exert themselves trying to dress the story up in snazzy new threads. For THE MATRIX, we had bullet-time and shiny leather. For BOUND, we had Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon. For DOC FRANKENSTEIN, we have a man-made monster/godsend that leaps off of an exploding building with a shotgun towards a plane, shoots and kills the pilot, grabs onto the tail, climbs onto the wing, pulls it to alter the trajectory of the plane, sends it spiraling towards several hundred enemy troops on the ground, leaps off just as it is about to explode, then collapses to the ground helpless to stem the tide of the onslaught.

I mean really.

More importantly, it is good to know that in a world where only one non-DC, non-Marvel title made it onto the Top 100 Best-Selling Comics of 2004 list (that being Dark Horse’s CONAN #1), a new independent publisher like Burlyman can manage to make such an impact. The first issue of this title not only garnered some wonderful reviews, but it managed to sell out and make it to a second printing to boot. Now, in a world where the likes of CrossGen and Dreamwave were both forced to shut up shop, it would be ignorant to claim that Burlyman will continue to grow from strength-to-strength, but since it is being financed by the self-perpetuating royalties of THE MATRIX franchise, and since the talent involved is phenomenal, they definitely have a real shot at making this work. For the sake of creativity itself, let’s hope that they do…

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