“Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” finishes its first story arc as Frankenstein and the Creature Commandos take on the Monster Planet that seeks to enter our dimension. Like the issues before it, there’s not much here except some high impact action and crazy ideas. Then again, what else does this comic need? Set the heroes up against hordes of monsters that no one feels remorse for and let them slaughter their way to our protection. This is a comic that wallows in the grotesque beauty of one set of ‘monsters’ slaying another.
Monster Planet is close to entering our dimension and the Creature Commandos need to kill the various ‘mother monsters’ that drive the planet, each ruling its own continent. The forces protecting each larger monster are so overwhelming that the split up teams of the Commandos require a little bit of help or trickery. The most impressive bit of help comes from S.H.A.D.E.’s Toybox, who unleashes a couple of weapons that make short work of the enemies. The War Wheel is a giant juggernaut that Alberto Ponticelli draws in a spectacular mash up of high concept superhero art and gritty war art. It’s a messy issue once the War Wheel enters the picture.
Ponticelli’s art is the driving force behind this issue. Jeff Lemire wisely keeps the plot moving at a brisk pace and, without anything too deep beneath the surface, it falls on Ponticelli to bring the excitement. He really amps up the energy and the weirdness in this issue. Every pages is a glorious mess of askew angles, heavy inks, and distorted characters that don’t look right at all. In the midst of that, he shows a strong storytelling ability, clearly thinking out how each panel moves to the next. The sequence with Frankenstein underwater is done in such a controlled manner that it stands out from the madcap pace of the rest of the issue, heightening its power.
The plot is so sparse, so focused on action, that, in some places, Lemire’s writing is a little heavyhanded. Too often, dialogue and captions slow the issue down without adding anything. When the War Wheel is introduced, the convention of using the S.H.A.D.E. database to introduce characters and objects doesn’t mesh with the over-the-top visual of it attacking the monsters. A higher emphasis is placed on the visuals and Lemire pulls back, but not enough. This issue could have been more entertaining and more a visceral gut punch with a little less talky and a little more destruction and mayhem unimpaired.
One of the nicest surprises of the DC relaunch has been “Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.” and its focus on absurd ideas and an action-driven story. It’s appropriate that, next month, it will enter into a short crossover with “O.M.A.C.” since both comics share a similar sensibility.