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Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1: War of the Monsters Review

Posted on August 28, 2012 by Michael Holland

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    ACCESSING FILE 623/3: Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1: War of the Monsters.

    When DC decided to reboot their entire universe there was a great deal of cheering and moaning heard around the world. Whether you consider the reboot to be a success or otherwise there are two things that most readers consider to be positive angles on the issue. One, the reboot has provided a decent place at which to introduce newcomers to the DC universe. Two, it is nice to see little used characters brought to the forefront with their own titles.

    Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E., written by Jeff Lemire and drawn by Alberto Ponticello, is one of those titles and it has been surprisingly well received by critics and masses alike. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1: War of the Monsters collects issues #1-7 including the crossover story Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. vs. O.M.A.C. written by Dan Didio.

    Frankenstein is a monster who needs no introduction on his own. In the DC universe Agent Frankenstein draws inspiration equally from Mary Shelley’s novel, Boris Karloff’s interpretation of the monster in Universal Studios Frankenstein (1931) and decades of comic book appearances alongside the Creature Commandos. Ever vigilant to keep the evil inside him in check Agent Frankenstein aids Father Time (director of S.H.A.D.E.) in his mission to keep Earth safe from all threats. Whether turning the ride in a town overrun by monsters or dog fighting Nazis in the skies over Germany, Agent Frankenstein thrives on the eradication of evil and the protection of the innocent.

    Our tall, dark and green hero does not fight alone. The Creature Commandos is a four member team of super humans who back Agent Frankenstein up in the field. Dr. Nina Mazursky is a brilliant scientist and geneticist who used her talents to transform herself into an aquatic humanoid (which resembles the Creature from the Black Lagoon). Warren Griffith is an over-eager to please soldier who was transformed by Dr. Mazursky’s into a werewolf. Likewise, Vincent Velcoro, a pilot with a dark past, was transformed into a vampire. Khalis, an Egyptian mummy and mystic, has proven himself a valuable member of the team even if everything about him has been classified and remains a mystery.

    The Bride of Frankenstein (or Ex-Wife as she refers to herself) was S.H.A.D.E’s first agent and she joins the Creature Commandos on their more dangerous missions. Her relationship with Agent Frankenstein is a tense one due to an unmentioned sin “Frank” committed but they do not discuss (at least not in this volume).

    Father Time, with the help of Dr. Ray Palmer, coordinates missions from the Hub of the Ant Farm, a mobile 3-inch and indestructible orb which serves as S.H.A.D.E.’s headquarters. Agents travel to and from the Ant Farm via a teleportation system which also shrinks them down to fit inside the miniscule facility. Each decade Father Time is reborn in a new form. This form reflects some aspect of the human spirit in the coming decade. His current form is that of a young Asian girl in a school uniform wearing a mask. I guess anime obsessed fans have finally made an impact on mankind’s combined psyche.

    As Father Time would say, “Is this going to be a problem for you?”

    The comic has the veneer of a campy, action adventure story with healthy doses of mad science and creature feature goodness. At the same time each character is rich and complex and before long I began to care about each of them while they fought to save the world time and time again. Frank is a lover of poetry and literature, prone to quoting his favorite passages to express his deeper feelings without revealing himself. Father Time answers the dark questions like, “How far is too far to save the world? And who will make those tough choices?” Dr. Mazursky subjected herself to her treatments after the first batch of test subjects, which she calls her children, went mad while trying to cope with human emotions. Readers looking for a great action comic as well as character driven stories will find everything they are looking for in this comic.

    Jeff Lemire is currently writing three of the best books in the New 52 line up, each with its own unique touch of the supernatural. He has been the driving force behind Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. and Animal Man since the DC Universe reboot and he took the helm on Justice League Dark as of issue #9. His influence has been important in developing the darker side of the New 52 and with each of his titles going strong it is a position he will probably hold for some time.

    Although Lemire has written a wonderful story this comic would not pop if not for the talents of artist Alberto Ponticello. Ponticello is most well-known for his work in 2009 on Vertigo’s Unknown Soldier and his unique style brings Agent Frankenstein and the rest of the Creature Commandos to “life” in a way few artists can.

    Frankenstein Agent of Shade Volume 1: War of the Monsters retails for $14.99 (USA) or $16.99 (CAN) which is a great price for seven issues of a high quality comic.

    Five out of five stars.

    Or as Agent Frankenstein would say, “Hrrm…”

    CLOSING FILE 623/3: Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. Volume 1: War of the Monsters.

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    Review by Michael Holland

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