Sunday, September 18, 2011

Frankenstein - Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 - A Review

There is an easy test to determine if you are the sort of person who will enjoy Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1. Look at the following page:

If you agree with the statement made by the little girl in the school uniform and the domino mask, you will likely enjoy this book. If you agree with Frankenstein that this is insane, you probably won't.

This isn’t a particularly deep title. It doesn't have to be nor do I think it is meant to be. You’ve got Frankstein as a secret agent. He works for a group called S.H.A.D.E. – one of the many government organizations in the DC Universe that is devoted toward dealing with super-powered and supernatural weirdness, though S.H.A.D.E. seems to be primarily devoted to dealing with weird monster attacks. All of this and more is explained to us by an unseen A.I. narrator, who introduces Frankenstein (and us) to S.H.A.D.E’s new base of operations before sending him off on a mission in a town full of Lovecraftian nightmares.

Jeff Lemire’s script plunges us right into the action, pausing only for brief info dumps before moving on. There’s a lot of high-concept weirdness that would not be out of place on The Prisoner but not a lot of character depth. The only thing we really know about Frankenstein’s background – apart from hints that he is THAT Frankenstein - being that he has an estranged wife who also works for the same group. Some readers may be turned off by this but I personally found the book to be reminiscent of Mike Mignola’s B.P.R.D.

For a title like this to work, you must have an artist who can draw memorable yet sympathetic monsters. Alberto Ponticelli is such an artist. There is a real depth and quiet nobility to his Frankenstein, hinting at the intelligence behind the monster’s face that is essential to the character. And he can draw monsters getting cut up really good too!

In all seriousness, this title is aimed at a niche market but I think it will satisfy fans of that niche quite well. If the idea of a team of monsters fighting other monsters doesn’t make you smile even a little, then this is not the book for you. But if you’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of the 20th Anniversary Monster Squad: Special Edition Blu Ray… have I got a book for you!

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