DC Relaunch Review: Frankenstein: Agent of Shade #1 by Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli

Well, big weirdness in comics works, right?  And, hey, this one isn’t even a Jack Kirby concept!

Frankenstein: Agent of Shade #1

Written by Jeff Lemire

Art by Alberto Ponticelli and Jose Villarrubia

Jeff Lemire and Alberti Ponticelli take Frankenstein, yes, the from the Mary Shelley classic, and keep his updated superhero, crusader against the weird motif going from Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers interpretation.  But while big weird is usually fun, it isn’t always good.  Did Frankenstein succeed at both?

 

During the course of this book, Frankenstein goes to meet his boss at SHADE, Father Time, now a tiny Hit Girl look-alike in a secret base you have to shrink to get to, then finds out his estranged wife disappeared in a town where monsters are attacking, so he goes to rescue here.  As he’s ready to rescue here, a team of miscreants inspired by his life show up to help, as they were hired by SHADE and become known as the creature commandos.  A big fight ensues and, while the plot is nothing fancy, a huge idea every few panels does a ton to help it keep feeling fresh.

 

First of all, the huge ideas here are fantastic – Father Time as a Japanese Schoolgirl, the rethought creature commandos, the shrinking Ray Palmer Atom base… there’s a crazy idea every two pages.  This isn’t one of those issues you finish and wonder where your money went – this brings the big ideas and brings the crazy.  While some of them are recycled, throwing them all together like this makes for a great mash-up that, unfortunately, isn’t having quite enough fun.

 

The ties from this to  Hellboy’s examination of the paranormal with a secret organization of freaks and weirdos is undeniable, but while Hellboy is a mostly normal guy who usually seems to have fun, Frankenstein seems more driven by doing the right thing and helping people.  That’s all well and good, and the genius monster quoting Milton is great, but this could use a little more Atomic Robo and a little less Little Depressed Boy – there just needs to be more a sense of grand adventure.  I can only take this much craziness so seriously.

 

All of this is strange, because I don’t think I’m expected to take it seriously.  Most of the other characters, even the cliché ones, have a sense of fun and adventure about them, but Frankenstein himself being the protagonist and being so stoic is a real put off.  I mean he’s a golem with a super intellect, a gatling gun, and a sword – he should be happier about all of this because he sure sounds awesome.

 

The art in this one does a good job of putting over the craziness within the issue, as Ponticelli is allowed to break loose with what he draws.  How he draws it, though, and put it together leave a bit more to be desired.  A story this weird calls for some different panel layouts and storytelling techniques.  We know from Sweet Tooth Lemire can write to that, so hopefully he and Ponticelli take advantage of that when they have more time.  This did, as does much of the relaunch, feel quite rushed.  Everything is crisp early, and then gets looser and looser as the book goes on into the big action piece, likely because the deadline was nearing for release.

 

Even with loose art and a mildly downer protagonist, this issue had some great, huge ideas that really can only be done in comics.  There is a world of potential to see explored in this book, and while it’s quality isn’t among the best of the relaunch, it’s still among my favorites just through sheer potential.  A bit more time to make the story come together and unify the art to the story could lead to this being an excellent comic.  For now? 6/10.

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