Right now reading DC comics is kind of a gamble. If you’re a fan who enjoys the shared, continuing universe aspect of major superhero comics, it’s frustrating to know that the book you hold in your hands might not have any consequence at all when the big reboot/relaunch hits in a couple months. That impending deadline makes more than a few series feel like lame ducks. On the other hand, intrepid fans can find a few books that provide some glimpses into the DC that might be. Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown is one such book. Thanks to yesterday’s news we know that writer Jeff Lemire will be taking up Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE come September, so it seems like his work on Creatures of the Unknown might give us an idea of what to expect going forward.
If this Flashpoint tie-in accurately conveys the kind of work we’ll be getting every month in Agent of SHADE, I’ll be a happy camper. Lemire’s a writer I have great respect for; I’ve yet to read a book from him I didn’t like. That trend continues here with this cool horror/war/alternate-reality mash-up. In the Flashpoint universe, it turns out that a group of American soldiers stumbled upon and unearthed the mythical monster of Frankenstein during a World War II mission to the North Atlantic. Being a creature driven to see justice done (as we can remember from Mary Shelley), the monster ends up helping the Americans bring down Hitler’s regime. His allies then turn on him, putting him and his fellow “Creature Commandos” (other scientific experiments) in stasis until they’re awoken by a great battle some 65 years later. The decades have not abated the creature’s desire to do what’s right, and now he and his fellow Commandos set off for Gotham City in order to reverse the condition that turned them into monsters.
The first part of Creatures of the Unknown shows Lemire blending multiple genres (besides war and horror, a little superhero) to great success. Seeing Frankenstein and his pals on the battlefield really channels some of the crazier war comics in DC’s history. The book gives us some solid action and packs a few twists that should satisfy readers of Flashpoint proper (for instance, it clues us into a big change in world history). All throughout, Lemire imbues his monsters with a really strong sense of character. There’s Frankenstein’s monster, who’s overly serious and righteous (not unlike Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing), Vincent Velcoro, a snotty war criminal-turned-vampire who never really stops being an asshole, and Warren Griffith, a disabled veteran who’s become a wolfman with a damaged mind (recalling some of the hybrids over in Lemire’s Vertigo series Sweet Tooth). It’s a wonderfully diverse cast and I look forward to Lemire exploring them over the next two months (and perhaps beyond).
On the art front, I was unfamiliar with Ibraim Roberson before coming to this series. That’s a shame, because he’s really, really good. A glance over at his website shows that he’s worked on some X-Men titles before, and he seems to have a penchant for the horrific side of things. That suits him well here. Creatures of the Unknown has to look a little ugly, but Roberson manages to make the monsters appropriately hideous while still turning in a beautiful book. The pages show off a bit of a painted style that recalls the period in which Mary Shelley initially wrote. Part of the credit for that has to go to colorist Pete Pantazis. I’m a little disappointed that Roberson won’t be joining Lemire for Agent of SHADE in September (that job goes to Alberto Ponticelli, another skilled creator), but I hope he finds another home in the DCU soon.
Most of DC’s future plans are currently shrouded in mystery; we have no idea what, if anything, will remain from these books when the new wave of #1s hits. To me, though, Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown proves that Lemire has an excellent handle on the characters and concepts that make up a key part of DC’s horror tales. If DC’s relaunch is all about spotlighting the things that really makes their books compelling, it’s totally clear that when it comes to Frankenstein they picked the right author for the job.
My Best of 2012 Playlist by Eric Garneau
After being inspired by some friends, for the past few years I’ve been really into documenting my musical exploration with year-end mixes. I realize this is not a particularly novel thing to do, but hey, who has original ideas any more? Anyway, this has gotten even easier to do thanks to new technology like Spotify. read more