Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE: War of the Monsters

Jeff Lemire & Alberto Ponticelli
Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE: War of the Monsters (2012)

With great characters, a solid story and perfectly fitting artwork, Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE remains one of DC's best books, it says here on the back cover, which really makes me wonder how bad the shit ones must have been. Jeff Lemire wrote an approximately decent run on Animal Man, and the premise of this sounded like the right kind of stupid so I just had to take a look. Of course, Grant Morrison used the DC version of Mary Shelley's monster in Seven Soldiers of Victory, which I recall as being a thing of wonder even though I can't actually remember anything else about it, much less whether the Frankenstein episodes were anything special.

For what it may be worth, I gather that Shelley's monster wandered the Earth for some time following the events of her book - at least according to DC lore - before eventual recruitment by one of those typically shadowy government agencies you always hear about, in this case the Super Human Advanced Defence Executive. Thusly does he now wander the Earth writing wrongs with the help of his Creature Commandos, respectively a mummy, a Dracula, a werewolf, and a woman from the black lagoon.


I gather some of this stuff was in Seven Soldiers but as I say I can't remember any of it, and reading up on Wikipedia ringeth no bells. As an aspiring mangafied Ditko tribute, it probably could have worked had Lemire upped either the surrealism or the stupidity, but he hasn't, instead writing the sort of generic combination of face punching scrapes and weird science you used to get in X-Men spin-offs in the eighties, back when we were still pretending that twelve-year old boys read this stuff. It tries dark, but can't quite seem to work out just what it wants to do and ends up as Hanna-Barbera written by someone who really should have been escorted from the premises before he got anywhere near the room with the typewriters.

'I never did like these things. They always gave me the willies,' comments Warren the werewolf as the Creature Commandos engage in a pagga with the android Humanids, one of many fights characterised by one-line zingers traded back and forth amongst combatants.

'You know what I always say, Furball,' quips Velcoro the vampire, whose name I can't keep myself from reading as Velcro, 'never trust anything that don't bleed!'

Do you really always say that, Velcoro?

Do you really?

Oddly, Frankenstein himself - seeing as we've apparently given up pointing out that this was the name of the creator rather than the guy with the bolt through his neck, because that's like soooooo boooooring - is relatively faithful to Shelley's surprisingly erudite creation, at least in comparison to most of the other versions we've had over the years, but somehow it just isn't enough. It could be that I'm just too old for this sort of thing, and in reading it I am essentially attempting to persuade programs which have run without a problem for years to work on Windows 10; but then I had no problem with the big fat eighties Captain America collection I bought last year, and that one was definitely written for kids. Alberto Ponticelli's artwork achieves Mike McMahon levels of gorgeousness and gorgeousity made flesh, and yet remains hamstrung by the weaker links of everything else in the book; although the contrast is reduced by the seventh issue in which someone called Walden Wong inks Ponticelli's pencils in the style of one of those mid-nineties 2000AD artists who couldn't actually draw, the big eyes Armoured Gideon bloke for example, whatever his name was - the guy who made everyone look like extras from Garfield.

Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE isn't terrible, but it's surprisingly average considering what went into the recipe. If it was really ever one of DC's best books, then I'd say DC are probably screwed, although to be fair the claim represents a similarly poor fit to the book having been cancelled following issue sixteen. I suppose it would be a boring world if we all liked the same thing, and clearly some people liked this. One bloke on Goodreads described it as Hellboy by way of Philip K. Dick, which probably works if you've never read at least one of those, but whatever - it worked well enough for him, I guess.

No comments:

Post a Comment