Thursday, December 15, 2011

DC New 52 Review: Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1-4

I'm going to alter my formula for reviews a tad for this one because this book is a team book and it's a team book with unfamiliar characters who I think need some explanation. This is also the first complete story arc I've reviewed so far.

Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1-4
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Alberto
Cover Price: $2.99

In a nutshell:
This is like a hybrid between League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Hellboy with Universal Monsters mixed in. Don't let this book intimidate you, it's nothing but fun!

Why Did I Buy It:
The gorgeous covers by J. G. Jones really caught my attention but it was probably listening to an interview with Jeff Lemire on the WorldBalloon (highly recommended, best podcast about comics barnone!) which made me want to give the book a try.

The Characters:

Stands for
Super Human Advanced Defense Executive. It's a government organization that monitors and basically goes out and kills dangerous monsters.

Frankenstein: Presumably the Frankenstein monster from the classic novel, having survived for over a century and having been a Super Agent of S.H.A.D.E. for at least a while, killing off monsters and stuff like that. He is the leader of the new field team formed by S.H.A.D.E. He's a badass but he takes things very seriously and has an outspoken cautious morality when it comes to scientific indulgence. He's also very gentlemanly with the ladies. He also likes to recite classical poetry that has significance to him. He's basically the opposite of a pseudo intellectual. He's sophisticated and has a lot of culture but doesn't seem to give a damn about showing it off and usually is very standoffish and gruff.

Father Time: Another character who is very very old and has known and worked with Frankenstein for a long time. He generates himself new bodies every ten years and he is currently inhabiting the body of a Japanese schoolgirl which he seems to have a twisted sense of humor about and which seems to creep out the people who know him. He's basically the head guy of S.H.A.D.E. and he seems to be a little cavalier when it comes to scientific experiments.

Ray Palmer: Best known as the DC superhero The Atom, Ray is a scientist who seems to have perfected shrinking thing down beyond microscopic levels. It's not clear yet in this series if he was once The Atom of if that hasn't happened yet in this new continuity. He is the United Nations science liaison with the team. He observes the field team and helps them out with scientific solutions via holograms and audio feeds. He seems to have reservations about a lot of Father Time's scientific "progresses".

The Creature Commandos (Frankenstein's Field Team):

Lady Frankenstein:: Frankenstein's long time estranged wife. She seems to feel that they are essentially divorced, he seems to have a hard time acknowledging it. There were obviously personality issues that kept them from being a couple, however there seems to be a respect for each other, at least in their work (which is killing monsters). She is plainspoken and a little bitchy and she's a badass with her guns of which she has four because she has four arms. It looks like she might be the femme fatale of the group.

Dr. Nina Mazusky: She's the field science agent. She was married and was going to have a baby but the baby died and her husband left her so she decided to really throw herself into her work which lead to her transforming herself and other people into monster/human hybrids. She herself is an amphibian hybrid. Unlike the rest of the new team, Frankenstein takes to her right away and there seems to be some chemistry between the two. She is almost maternal with the creatures that she's experimented on and she builds an attachment to them which seems like it might create problems for her down the road.

Warren Griffith: One of Mazursky's hybrid, him being a werewolf hybrid. He is a new recruit to S.H.A.D.E. and is very eager to please his superiors. In this storyline it is suggested that Warren might be a potential love interest for Lady Frankenstein which you could see creating some drama with Frankenstein whom Warren looks up to.

Vincent Velcoro: Another of Mazursky's hybrids, him being vampiric mixed in with a modified version of the formula that created the batman villain Man-Bat. He was a pilot of S.H.A.D.E. before becoming a hybrid. He's got some attitude and can be a bit of a smartass.

Khalis: A mummy character which nobody seems to know that much about. He is the medic off the team and isn't as chatty as the other characters. He also has some very powerful mysterious abilities which take a toll on him when he uses them.

The Base of Operations
S.H.A.D.E.'s base is called the Ant Farm which is a three inch indestructible floating ball which contains contains a microscopic futuristic city which is maintained by thousands organic robots who have a lifespan of 24 hours and then decompose to be used as a "green" energy source for the city. Only agents are permitted to enter the ant farm and to do so they are simultaneously shrank to microscopic size and teleported in.

A small town in Washington State is invaded by monsters. The Creature Commandos investigate and discover that there is a wormhole inside the lake near the town and that for years monsters have been coming out of this lake and ultra-religious town folk have been sacrificing children from their town for year thinking that it was appeasing the "demons", which the monsters found amusing. What the monsters were really doing there was preparing a planet wide invasion for their masters whose planet is dying off. So the Creature Commandos decide to go through the wormhole and take the fight to the source.

The Good:
This book is pure escapism. It's mostly monsters fighting monsters, but you don't feel like a simpleton for enjoying it. It's well written and it has a sense of humor about itself. The covers by J. G. Jones are drop dead gorgeous and the interior art is very expressive and captures a lot of the personality of these characters while at the same time throwing a lot of big scale fantastic action at you.

The Bad:
Because the covers are so gorgeous they might create certain expectations and the interior art is such a dramatically different style, it might put off a lot of the people who were drawn to the book because of the covers (which is as good a reason as any). Ponticelli's art is a looser and sketchier style and it doesn't have the immediate appeal of J.G. Jones' covers. It took me actually sitting down to read the first issue to be drawn in but once I was really pulled in by Ponticelli's art which can really represent a lot of different layers in really nice way.

Is it worth it?
Only if you want to read a fun comic!

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