Sometimes it pays to take a shot. I’d been told many times that the Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE series was really good. I’d held off because I already had too many books on my plate. Recent events have allowed me to thin that herd so, after taking into consideration that writer Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth and Animal Man have been consistently wonderful, I bought in. Now, having caught up with the series, I can honestly say that Frankenstein: Agent Of SHADE is one of my new favorite books.
I can’t really review all nine issues I read because my duty is to focus on #9. This is where Frankenstein and his cohorts encounter The Rot, the vile and creepy evil of flesh that is currently the focus of both Animal Man and Swamp Thing. Issue #9 is a little less human, no pun intended, than the last eight issues. Lemire spent a sizable chunk of time setting up not just the unstoppable monster side of these characters but also their humanity. Frankenstein is a troubled warrior of justice, complete with a hot tempered and multi-limbed ex-wife. His crew consists of a kiss-ass werewolf, a sarcastic vampire skeleton, a stoic mummy and a scientist humanoid fish woman. As bizarre as they can be, they are so much more than just monsters.
Lemire leaves some of that humanity on the backburner and focuses on the problem at hand. SHADE has sent Frankenstein and Nina (scientist fish woman) to try and find a cop named Krenshaw. For those who follow Animal Man, Krenshaw is the cop that was possessed and killed by The Rot. Frankenstein and Nina search for Krenshaw until discovering his body by a river. It’s there that battle with The Rot begins.
What Lemire leaves behind in humanity he more than makes up for in weird action. Frankenstein’s battle with The Rot is disturbing. Krenshaw’s body separates into vile creatures, dark things from the depths of the river come calling and all of them repeating how they can’t be killed and the flesh is for them to devour. In a very cool nod to John Carpenter’s The Thing, Krenshaw’s head turns into a disgusting spider creature. Frankenstein tries to slice and dice his way through the horror but to no avail. When The Rot gain the upper hand, the entity is surprised to find it can’t feed on Frankenstein because he is not really alive. A split second later, SHADE vaporizes the area and The Rot are driven back.
The art from Alberto Ponticelli does a lot to bring Lemire’s story to life. You can tell he’s having fun coming up with all these Rot creatures as well putting some real psychopathic faces onto Frankenstein. Ponticelli has a great eye for action and movement as well some nice panel layouts. Sadly, #9 is Jeff Lemire’s end run as he has jumped over to Justice League Dark. Let’s hope the future scribe manages to keep the joy, humanity and general weirdness of the series alive.
(4 Story, 4 Art)