The new DCU rolls along and we finally get the monster himself! Frankenstein has always been a fun character, being able to bridge the gap from campy and over-the-top, to dark and creepy. I love characters like Frank, because the monster history is so well known and developed, they come with a higher level of all around cool factor. The new series is being helmed by writer Jeff Lemire and artist Alberto Ponticelli, and while I liked the book, its overall success is questionable. ***WARNING SPOILERS BELOW***
The book starts with Frankenstein returning from vacation as the result of a monster invasion. Lemire uses the computer system of S.H.A.D.E.’s new headquarters to introduce plot points and catch the reader up on what is what and who is who. This is effective, but it comes off as a little uncreative and stale. That is not to say the writing itself is bad, but the vehicle certainly does not help it here. What he does do well is introduce us to a S.H.A.D.E. that is probably one of the most changed parts of the new DCU.
To start, I love Father Time being now portrayed as a pigtailed school girl. It makes for a fun dynamic to see Frank taking orders from someone who barely comes to his knee. Ray Palmer’s introduction as the science officer and government liaison is sufficient but fans may feel like Ray is a little bit of an afterthought. S.H.A.D.E.’s new headquarters is a sci-fi/monster movie mash-up that works well, right down to the creepy scientist, Agent Belroy, and his minions, the humanids. The humanids come off as a little too Ultron like, but given this is a monster book, I am hoping Lemire takes them in a different direction.
Lemire’s writing of Frank through all of this is right on point. Frank comes off as no nonsense and over bearing, while maintaining a sympathetic and articulate behavior. This has always been the appeal of Mary Shelley’s creation, and is something that is hard to balance, but Lemire succeeds. That being said Creature Commando fans be warned, your monster squad is the most rebooted thing to date. The first major change is that not only is Dr. Mazursky alive and around, but he is a she, and she is a creature herself. She fills in as the resident water monster having created Project M and then taking part in the experiment. In addition to Mazursky’s change, DC effectively wipes out any of the WWII history by introducing all of our favorite monster squad heroes as new recruits anxious to join the famed Frankenstein. Vincent Velcoro and Warren Griffith fall right into their usual spots with slight origin changes, and lastly we are introduced to a new mummy monster, Khalis. Khalis acts as the team’s medical officer, and may or may not be thousands of years old.
Ponticelli’s artwok also comes off as being good but not great. I think Ponticelli’s was a good choice for this book as his detailed style should fit right along with a classic monster book, however, it comes off as a little cluttered and busy on many of the pages. Also Frank seems to change looks from page to page, often being so different that if viewed outside of the book you would question whether the pages belonged together. That being said where Ponticelli shines is towards the end of the book with the Creature Commandos and the action sequences. Even though his monster hord is really just vague outlines, the Commandos themselves are the focal points of the page and the colors by Jose Villarrubia really highlight everything going on. He even seems to hit his stride with his faces here really employing that detailed style to great effect.
Overall the reader is left interested at the end to see how this new team comes together. The characters are varied enough to create a great dynamic and Ray Palmer’s story has to be the hidden gem to this book. Lemire is a great writer and he has opened the door to few great plot points, I just hope they come off a little more exciting than those in issue number one. Agree or Disagree? Let me know in the comments below!