New 52 Review: Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1

This may look like the B.P.R.D. and have the same concept as the B.P.R.D., but... okay, it's B.P.R.D.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE #1

So an agency made up of supernatural creatures charged with fighting monsters, who nevertheless act like wage-slave employees in any bureacratic occupation when they're not busy chopping the heads off of slimy green creeps?  It'll either be the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense or the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive.  Take your pick. 

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 does share some similarities with Mike Mignola's B.P.R.D., such as the big burly lead character and a fish-human hybrid as well as a dark art style complete with misshapen, toothy green monsters, but that doesn't make it any less of a cool concept.  DC's Creature Commandos have been around since 1980, so we won't get into a turf war here.  Good guy monsters fighting bad guy monsters is still a good thing.

Frankenstein has some significant personality differences from Hellboy anyway.  He has a giant sword instead of the Red Right Hand, and he has an easily-offended, somewhat paranoid, prim and proper sensibility, although he's not hesitant to get hardass when the situation calls for it.  However, as he wanders the massive S.H.A.D.E. headquarters designed by U.N. liaison Dr. Ray Palmer (no evidence of being the Atom thus far), he's constantly warning the scientists that they shouldn't meddle with forces beyond their ken and the like, giving eerie warnings about his experience with such matters.  It's kinda fun, that.

Father Time is the overseer of S.H.A.D.E., just as he was when he first showed up as a supervillain in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein book, but here, he seems to be in charge of this agency on the up and up.  Of course, there's always plenty of time for him to turn out evil, and that's likely to be the case since, apparently, every decade he randomly generates a new body to inhabit, and this time it's a little girl scout with a domino mask.  Evil kids are all the rage these days.

So they have a kickass crazy science headquarters and a big burly Frankenstein to employ, and the problem is that a crapload of monsters have just shown up in Bone Lake, Washington, and he has to go help his estranged wife – a four-armed green woman – deal with them.  Now, for the first time, he's got backup in the Creature Commandos, based on other classic monster archetypes.  Nina the Fish Woman, Warren the Werewolf, Vincent the Vampire and a mummy named Khalis.  All but the mummy are S.H.A.D.E. experiments, which horrifies Frankenstein, who seems exceptionally vigilant against science run amok.  It looks like he'll get plenty of chances to kvetch in this series.

Jeff Lemire's conceptualization of S.H.A.D.E. and the kind of series this is going to be is certainly workable and rife with potential, but unfortunately that clean cover art from J.G. Jones you see above is not the same as in the issue (and at no point in this issue does Frankenstein kick ass with a Gatling gun, so consider that cover image false advertising on more than one front).  The inside art is from Alberto Ponticelli, who has that scratchy, wrinkled style that is just not particularly pleasant to take in.  He does have expressive faces and a great eye for detail, and the splash page where the Commandos jump into the fray against the green slime tooth-faced beasts is just wonderful, but more often than not, the dirty look of his work isn't as inviting as you want it to be.  Perhaps it just takes some getting used to.  An acquired taste, perhaps.

Overall, it's a good start, and I'll certainly make an effort to acquire that taste with #2.  Hopefully, it'll be able to differentiate itself from B.P.R.D. enough so as not to feel like a retread.  The vampire seems like an entertaining asshole and the werewolf looks badass.  It could happen.