This issue opens on an angry mob that’s intent on sacrificing the town’s children to the neighborhood monster infestation. This confrontation between Frankenstein and an angry mob is a classic image that writer Jeff Lemire turns on its head. Instead of having Frankenstein surrounded and scared by the fire wielding townspeople, he simply backhands their leader and dismisses the angry mob with barely a thought. This was a funny and clever reversal of the classic image of Frankenstein as the scared monster who’s hounded and tormented by the mobs of people who fear and misunderstand him.
Ray Palmer is SHADE’s resident pseudo scientist, and Lemire writes an interesting explanation for the monster infestation through the former Atom. Palmer explains that the “demon portal” in this village is actually a wormhole which is a door to a dimension called “dead space”. Here, we see that Lemire takes a concept from the horror/monster genre, the idea of a portal to beyond which monsters use to enter our plane of existence, and he mixes it with the science fiction explanation of a wormhole. This seamless merging of a fantasy concept with a science fiction concept was intriguing to me. Lemire even takes it a step further by having a force field meant to contain the monsters in the shape of a pentagram. The pentagram is a symbol usually associated with magic, the occult, and the supernatural, but here, Lemire mixes fantasy with science fiction by making his pseudoscientific force field in the shape of a pentagram.
As Frankenstein and Nina Mazurky leap into the village lake to fight the monsters who are entering out reality through an underwater wormhole, Lemire cuts to two pages of flashback which explain how Nina became a Creature From the Black Lagoon look-alike. We learn that Nina was a SHADE scientist who “gave birth” to a bunch of test tube grown monsters. These monsters were rampaging psychopaths, so Nina and SHADE banished them to “the zoo”, a microscopic prison. This failure to create useful monsters prompted Nina to remake herself and others as the Creature Commandos instead of trying to birth monsters from scratch. Again, Lemire is telling a monster story, but through the prism of science fiction concepts.
This next scene is where this issue gets really awesome. Lemire cuts from Nina’s flashbacks to Frankenstein and Nina diving under the lake and fighting giant Lovecraftian monsters. Artist Alberto Ponticelli delivers big time in this scene with these humongous, many tentacled beasts that Frankenstein and Nina have to fend off to get to the wormhole. If Frankenstein fighting HP Lovecraft-style monsters with a sword underwater isn’t enough to get you to want this comic, then I’m not sure what will. I would recommend this comic for the awesomeness of this fight sequence alone which Ponticelli really knocks out of the park.
I think that Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE is one of the most creative new series to come out of DC’s relaunch. Lemire’s mixture of the monster genre with science fiction tropes is an intriguing combination. The idea of putting together characters and concepts from fantasy stories with pseudo scientific explanations is a clever conceit, and it’s one which is only complimented by Alberto Ponticelli’s fantastically weird art. Overall, I would recommend this comic to you if you think you would enjoy seeing Frankenstein and his Creature Commandos fighting armies of monsters…and really, who wouldn’t enjoy seeing that?