Monday, March 19, 2012

Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #7

Mary Shelley, in Switzerland during a cold dreary summer that didn't exist in 1816, took up a prompt by Lord Byron to create a horrific tale. And so Frakenstein's monster was born, a birth that originated in some friends gathered together looking for a way to pass the time after having read some ghost stories. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. cultures the dark delightful impetus that lead to Mary Shelly's Prometheus.

Frankenstein Agent of  S.H.A.D.E. issue 7 contains the story of Frankenstein (combining the intellect of Mary Shelley’s Romantic hero and the good looks of Boris Karloff) and his monster companions battling a coup of S.H.A.D.E. headquarters and lead by “failed” scientific creations. While re-reading issue 7, three words stood out that capture the multiple appealing facets of this book. for Frankenstein

1. Familiar: "Who is she? She seems familiar." A discarded scientific monster asks of its creator.
2. Gateway: S.H.A.D.E.Net, open the gateway." Frankenstein demands of a locked door.
3. Pleasure: "Hrrn...with extreme pleasure, Father." Frankenstein responds to his boss regarding the elimination, with extreme prefudice, of the rebel humanids.
Humanity inherited the Frankenstein monster. Mary Shelley's monster rests as a familiar touchstone where a reader already has the basic knowledge of the tale. Some details may vary, but the core elements (manufactured life, severe parenting issues, social misfit, tall, dark, and ugly) are present and provide some known orientation for any Frankenstein story. J.G. Jones's cover to issue 7 hearkens to the airbrushed colors of the 1931 movie poster. Behind this cover, Jeff Lemire, Alberto Ponticelli, and Walden Wong work fit the familiar Frankenstein features to great effect. Frankenstein sports beloved neck bolts, green flesh, and a skein of sutures unwound upon his skin. Frankenstein even has a bride, Lady Frankenstein, albeit an estranged one, that shares the shade of his skin but with fewer stitches; she's also relaxed her hairstyle from one worn by Elsa Lanchester in 1935. Frankenstein even meets some friends also familiar to general audiences for at least 50 years (Griffith, The Wolfman (1941); Velcoro, Dracula (1931); Nina, The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954); Khalis, The Mummy (1932). All familiar fiends.

Lemire and Pontniceli take the familiar monster archetypes and move them through a gateway to meet the 21st century reader. Nanotechnology exists side-by-side with Frankenstein's flintlock pistol and broadsword. These magical creatures are essential to the operation of this high-tech world. Each character, while still representative of a tradition, has been brought by Lemire through some creative temporal gateway to become relevant and adapted for 21st century readers.

So what?

This  book is a sheer delight to read! The storyline dazzles, dances, and brawls across the pages, a fitting progression for a host of magic science monsters. Frankenstein and his motley crue take on a rebellion of humanid slaves who have a life span of only 24 hours.  As if this isn't enough, issue 8 promises a scuffle with the spawn of Frankenstein (read Son of Frankenstein (1939)).

Amidst battling humanids, Velcoro and Griffith retreat to retrieve some weapons. Griffith asks the vampire who wears an aviator's cap and wearing yellow and black checkered arm warmers how he obtained the code for the weapons' room. The winged fiend replies "Won it off one of the science nerds in a poker game last week."  Lady Frankenstein, after shooting a gooey "science fair reject" comments "God, I'll never get this stuff out of my hair." Grim monster humor akin to the above lines augment the pleasure of an already pleasurable book.

The hyperbolic science in the stories delivers a sublime sheen with each issue. Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. continues the distillation of a fiction that started amongst friends in Switzerland during the year without a summer, and it still spirits the imagination with wild ideas as only a horror-science-superhero comic book can.Just as the wolfman Griffith Warren (of Zevon fame?) expressed upon seeing the plethora of weapons within S.H.A.D.E.'s Secret Armory X, "I'm in heaven."

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