Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E: Book 1 - War Of The Monsters (#1-7)

"Never give up hope...Life has a way of enduring in even the darkest of times" - Frankenstein

During my look at the Grant Morrison penned Seven Soldier's series, I covered his reboot of Frankenstein As that miniseries progressed, Frankenstein was found and employed by S.H.A.D.E which stands for "Super Human Advanced Defence Executive".  His job to seek out places where science and monsters had run amok and deal with them, he gained an wi-fi internet connection to the base and was able to have information downloaded into his brain.  His ex-wife, known only as "The Bride" then and more commonly referred to as "Lady Frankenstein" here, also worked for S.H.A.D.E. She had two extra arms grafted onto her and was an excellent kicker of asses.  Basically this whole set-up has been used to kick off this Frankenstein based series which launched as one of the first of DC's The New 52, it's 2011 universal reboot.  The only difference being that in this version of the DCU Frankie had been working for S.H.A.D.E. for many decades rather than having just recently been revived and returned to action.  This time the writer is Jeff Lemire and he does a good job springboarding off Morrisons ideas, keeping Frankenstein as the same kind of lugubrious but intelligent philosopher while really going crazy with S.H.A.D.E.  Alberto Ponticelli's art deserves some praise as well.  It's has a nice, thick lined weight to it set off by a limited palatte that emphasises green keeping things looking a little sickly and monsterous.

The story begins with an old man and his grandchild fishing by a lake, their dog goes off to investigate something and when they look for it they find it dead and skinned.  Then several monsters appear causing the old man to stutter "It''s finally happening.."  We are then introduced to S.H.A.D.E and it's new base called "The Ant Farm".  It's a miniturised city inside a three inch sized sphere that hovers miles above the Earth. S.H.A.D.E have been helped in this regard by Ray "The Atom" Palmer, who is a representative of the government and there to keep an eye on things.
Frankenstein meets with Ray and Father Time in his new body.
Frankenstein arrives having been called away from his holiday on Mars and is greeted by "humanids", artifical humanoids made to last 24 hours before being recycled.  Frankensteins comments on the dangers of creating life. He then meets Father Time who has transferred his conciousness into the body of a young, sailor suited, Japanese schoolgirl after getting bored of his old body, a black male. He tells Frankie that earlier that day they got reports of monsters invading a small American town.  They sent Lady Frankenstein in, but have lost contact with her.

S.H.A.D.E are keeping the monsters contained to the town right now, but Frankenstein will need help and is assigned a new field team.  Doctor Nina Muzarsky, an amphibian/human hybrid. Warren Griffith, a wolfman. Vincent Velcoro, a vampire and Khalis a mysterious mummy who doesn't hardly speak.  Frankenstein is appalled at this meddling with humanity.

Vincent: "Relax old man.  We volunteered for this. What's the matter?  Don't like the competition for monster of the year?"

Warren: "Watch your mouth Velcoro.  This man deserves your respect.  Agent FRankenstein it's an honour if I may say sir.  You're the reason I joined S.H.A.D.E."

Nina: "Yes. You and your life inspired all of my work."
Nina, Griffith, Velcoro and Khalis.
Nina was responsible for creating the "Creature Commandos" apart from Khalis. Frankenstein once again says he hopes things work out better than the last time someone he knew tried to create life. Then they teleport down to the town and start fighting the monsters.  They make their way to a church where Khalis has detected life and inside find a large group of children hiding in a cellar under the altar.

Questioning the woman with the children, Frankenstein discovers the children were being used as "bartering chips in some ancient pact".  Frankie knocks the old woman out and calls for evacuation of the children.  Ray Palmer contacts them and says the invasion is coming from a "temporal rift" under the lake.  The Creature COmmandos set up a "firewall" round the lake to keep the monsters contained, then Frankenstein and Nina, who can both breathe underwater, go down to investigate the lake bottom.
Nothing suspicious about this at all...
Nina has a flashback to how after the loss of her child, she focused on creating life in the lab. The first bacth went mad and are confined to a special prison area on the Ant Farm,.  She next experimented on full grown humans including herself and was more successful. She and Frankenstein reach the lake bed and find a huge number of child skeletons littering it.

Frankenstein: " Innocents sacrificed by the terrified people of this town in some insane attempt to keep whatever lurks down there at bay."

The fight off three monsters down there with Frankenstein approving of how quickly Nina adapts to the situation.  Nina says she needs a brain, so Frankenstein rips one out of the defeated monsters.  Nina hooks it up to some equipment and reads it. The three monsters were scouts looking for suitable planets to conquer.  The locals misread their intentions and started sacrificing children to them which amused the creatures.
The temporal rift under the lake.
Now the monsters planet is dying which gave new urgency to the invasion plans.  Lady Frankenstein was dragged through the portal when she came to fight them and now the invasion proper is underway.  Back up in the Ant Farm, Frankie's team is introduced to "The Egg" a small ship that can take them safely through the portal.  So through they go and are faced with thousands of monsters and Lady Frankenstein fighting them.  "What took you so long?" she asks them.  They all get stuck into the horde.

Lady Frankenstein: "Don't talk, just shoot!"

Velcoro: "Shoot?!  There ain't enough bullets in the world!"

Lady Frankenstein: "Charming new friends you have dear!"


Frankenstein contacts Father Time saying it's a suicide mission, but The Egg needs to repair itself before they can leave so for the moment they are stuck there.  Things look grim, but then Khalis concentrates and a huge flash of energy bursts out of him, killing not only the monsters in the immediate area but all over the continent as well.   There is still another continent with monsters on it and an ocean too, but for now they are safe.
Outnumbered on the moster planet.
Khalis is unconcious now and can't be of any further help.  Suddenly what looks like a mountain comes racing towards them, when it reaches them it reveals itself to be a huge monster.  Frankenstein charges it and gets swallowed whole.  The rest of his team start running from it, but then Frankie bursts out of it's chest with it's heart gripped tight in his hand, killing it instantly.

There is a similar "Titan" on the second continent and under the ocean and the team have three hours to deal with them before the planet reaches the temporal rift under the lake on Earth and all the creatures can invade. The team splits up, Lady Frankenstein takes Velcoro and Griffith to the other continent and Frankenstein and Nina go down into the water to look for the undersea one.  Back at The Ant Farm, the psychics suddenly start freaking out, all yelling the same phrase: "Help me!".

Ray: "They're just channelling a message."

Psychics: "Help Me! Help Me!  Help Me!"

Father Time: "A message from whom?"

Ray: "It... It's from the planet itself!"
My heart will go... wait did that one already.  Frankie kills the Titan.
The planet isn't actually a planet at all but a massive telepathic entity which had been hijacked by the three titans and their monstrous offspring.  They have leeched off it until it can no longer support them and now it's nearly dead they want a new host: Earth.

Lady Frankenstein's team is having trouble reaching the second titan, so Father Time authorises the sending through of something code-named "The Toybox" to help them out.  This turns out to contain a huge battle vehicle, covered with spikes and guns and crewed by a lot of android soldiers.

Underwater the monsters there don't attack Nina and Frankenstein.  Nina's fish like appearance makes them think she is their mother and they swim placidly along with them as they search for the titan.  They soon find it.  Nina says she could learn much from it, but Frankenstein reminds her that it was enslaving the planet-entity, torturing it for eons and has an "evil nature" and he draws his sword to attack it.

Back with the other team, The Lady Frankenstein orders the battle vehicle to smash into the titans kneecaps, while Velcoro and Griffith stab it in it's single eye.

Velcoro: "Aye aye Captain.  And what the hell are you going to do?"

Lady Frankenstein: "Me?  I'm going to stand here and look good of course."
Velcoro, Griffith and Lady F. take down another Tita.
Crippled the titan falls down and the androids soldiers pile in and attack it.  Frankenstein and Nina deal with the undersea titan and with all the titans dead the planet relays it's thanks via the psychics.   Trouble now is that the planet is moving away from the rift leaving only minutes for the team to return to Earth.  Things look bad then Khalis appears piloting The Egg.  He picks them all up and they make it through the rift to Earth with around a second to spare.  Back at the Ant Farm, Father Time has a question for Frankenstein:

Father Time: "So, Frankie.  What do you think of your new field team now?  Pretty awesome no?"

Frankenstein: "Hrrm...They'll do."
Frankenstein's holiday fun.
The next issue begins with Frankenstein on holiday in Tibet killing some ugly beasties who have been bothering the local temple.  Father Time then calls him and tells him to come to Checkmate HQ in the US.  Checkmate is another covert operation funded and run by the U.N.  The current "King" is Maxwell Lord.  Frankie arrives and Father Time and Lord bicker for a bit before getting down to business.  Checkmate has lost a being called O.M.A.C (One Man Army Corp).  He's been tracked to Metropolis and Checkmate think S.H.A.D.E have a better chance of dealing with him.

On the way Frankenstein says the whole thing feels suspect, S.H.A.D.E also has no information on O.M.A.C, "I don't like going in blind" comments Frankenstein.  He is dropped down on a normal looking man who yells "Omactivate!" and changes into a hulking, mohawked, brute.  While it and Frankenstein fight S.H.A.D.E.Net is under attack from a foreign intelligence.  Father Time says to let it have access to S.H.A.D.E's systems.  Meanwhile Frankenstein and O.M.A.C keep fighting, Frankenstein gets the upper hand and crys out "Brother! I need help!" then he unleashes an energy pulse that knocks Frankenstein back.
Frankie and OMAC fight.
"Brother Eye" is the name of the intelligence infiltrating S.H.A.D.E.Net, when it reaches the Hub it is intercepted and copied by the waiting Ray Palmer. Frankenstein is given the go-ahead to kill O.M.A.C but it suddenly teleports away, taking Frankenstein's left arm with him.  Frankenstein returns to the Ant Farms medical bay where Nina starts growing him a replacement.  She comments off-hand that she could use DNA to find out who his various body parts belonged to.  Father Time comes to check on him, but Frankenstein is irritated with him and warns Father he won't be a pawn in his wider schemes and goes to wait for his new arm in his quarters.

The next issue starts with Nina showing Ray around more of The Ant Farm.  They overlook a huge vat called "The Pit" where the humanids are broken down and recycled into new ones, "a perpetually regenerating non-human workforce."  Ray says he knows they aren't sentient and that S.H.A.D.E.Net acts as their collective hive mind but he still feels sorry and a little creeped out by them.  As they leave, one of the humanids become self-aware.

Humanid: "What am I? Why am I? Where am I? Must run.  Hide. Learn."
Tying up loose ends in Vietnam.
At the same time the rest of the Creature Commandos and Frankenstein are floating up a river in Vietnam,  During the Vietnam war, Frank and a being called Colonel Quantum fought on the US side.  One day Quantum said he was done with the war and S.H.A.D.E and disappeared into the jungle.  Later S.H.A.D.E and Frankenstein also realised the war was wrong. S.H.A.D.E monitored Quantum's energy signature and over the years it dwindled to nothing, but two weeks ago it flared up and destroyed all the villages in a fifty mile radius.  Griffith asks if they are bringing him home. No, says Frankenstein they are here to kill him.

They find a mutated Quantumn in a temple, he is a broken man who wishes only to die.  Frankenstein has a gun with anti-nuclear bullets that will return him to normal but also kill him.

Frankenstein: "Are you sure?"

Quantum: "Yes.  I'm sure.  I want to rest."

Frankenstein shoots him and Quantum suddenly grows huge, before shrinking down and returning to human form.  He dies content, holding Frankenstein's hand.
Quantum just wants to die in peace.
Back up in The Ant Farm, many humanids have rebelled and release the inmates of "The Zoo", the high security prison area.  Lady Frankenstein and Nina go to deal with them.  They are experiments gone wrong, Nina's first attempt at The Creature Commandos. One that looks like melted wax disables Lady Frankenstein by partially absorbing her and another knocks Nina out, though they recognise her as their "mother".

Frankenstein and his team bust their way back into The Ant Farm and are faced by a group of armed humanids.  Turns out Brother Eye was responsible for their sentience and rebellion and a fight ensues.  Lady Frankenstein meanwhile, blasts her way out of the wax creature then confronts the rest of Nina's "children".  Velcoro and Griffith break into the armoury and liberate some powerful ordanance and go to close down The Pit.
Nina's "children".
Father Time and Belroy are saved by Ray Palmer and his ability to shrink which he uses to explode the heads of the humanids holding them. With the rebel humanids wiped out and The Pit where they are made closed down, The Ant Farm is secure again.  But suddenly the last of Nina's children appears, grabs Frankenstein's sword and cuts off Khalis's head.  Frankenstein kills it, but it seems Khalis can survive a little decaptitation.  Then Father Time orders them to come to the teleport room.  Father Time says there was a final prisoner so dangerous and secret that they didn't have any S.H.A.D.E.Net files on it.

Frankenstein: "Who Father? What the hell did you have trapped in that thing?"

Father Time: "It was him, Frank.  It was your son!"
Frankie and the Creature Commandos do what they do best.
Dun-dun-DUH!  And that concludes the first volume with an excellent cliffhanger.  This was a very enjoyable collection of issues.  Building off the small details and relationships featured in Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein mini, it creates a very believeable atmosphere for "mad science" to run riot.  Giving Frankenstein a back-up team and keeping Lady Frankenstein around was another great idea.  It allows levity to take place around Frankenstein without turning him into a wise-cracking creature himself.  He's still a noble, utterly serious soul, dedicated with protecting humanity from monsters.  He also has a softer side which the gentle Nina brings out of him and they make a good couple when it's time to team up. If you enjoyed Grant Morrison's, Doug Manhke drawn Frankenstein, and don't go into this with the insanely high expectations that it set, you'll find plenty to enjoy here.  Join me in a few days for Book 2 and the resolution to that cliffhanger.


  1. What I want to know is, who's the mother of Frankenstein's son?

  2. Hmm, I should have put in that it's Lady Frankenstein, can't beleive I missed doing hat. Don't worry, sex isn't involved, you'll get the full story when I cover the next volume :)

  3. I like the creature commandos, theyre pretty cool!

  4. Yes I've said it before but giving Frankenstein a role like Hellboy has with the BPRD was a great idea, he even has his own Abe Sapien in the form of Nina!