I’m Phil. I’m seriously into comics. I’ve loved superheroes since I was a kid, I’ve been reading comics since I was about 12, and I’ve been a religious collector since 2009. I’m willing to bet I read more comic books in a month than most people do in a lifetime. My job here is to tell you all which ones I think are good each week. I’m a true believer that there’s something for everybody out there, and I want to help you find it.
By Phil Aitken
Best of the Week
Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #3
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by Alberto Ponticelli
Frankenstein actually came out last week, but I read it only this week and would be remiss if I didn’t give this fantastic series a thumbs-up.
I read the first issue during the first month of the reboot, and I thought it was pretty darn good. The cast was intriguing, the art was great, and the action was awesome. Monetary concerns prevented me from continuing to follow the series. After shifting around my list a bit, I gave Frank another go by picking up #2 and #3, and I can’t believe I was wasting time on the books I cut when one as good as this is on the stands.
As the title suggests, Frankenstein (the undead monster) is an operative for the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive. Their beat is what you’d expect to see from a B-movie horror flick: ghouls, goblins, giant spiders, underwater horrorterrors, that sort of thing. S.H.A.D.E. fights fire with fire by giving Frankenstein command of the Creature Commandos: the amphibious fish-woman Nina Mazursky, vampire pilot Vincent Velcoro, wise-cracking werewolf Warren Griffith, and the sorcerous support mummy Khalis.
Their first mission is to go into a monster-infested village to rescue the Bride of Frankenstein (though now it seems she’s the Ex-Wife of Frankenstein), another S.H.A.D.E. operative. The Commandos find Bride and discover the monsters are coming from a different planet using a portal in a nearby lake. Upon entering the portal, they find a whole continent filled with spider creatures. The Commandos are overwhelmed, but Khalis begins to show more of his heretofore rather mysterious capabilities when he uses a blinding light to destroy them all. This makes the giant spider living underground angry. This results in what I can say is easily one of the funniest moments I’ve read in a comic: the spider eats Frankenstein while he’s in the middle of a big “Foul beast, I shall return you from whence you came!” speech. Scared, the rest of the Commandos run until the spider stops short and Frankenstein jumps out of the spider’s stomach holding an important-looking organ, stabs the entrails, and says simply, “It is done.” They may have taken care of the spiders, but the Commandos still need to go to another continent filled with ogres and wipe out the monsters in the planet’s vast ocean before the whole planet invades Earth.
As I said in my Animal Man review two weeks ago, Jeff Lemire knows how to write a horror comic, but even better, he knows how to write a unique team. Frankenstein may be one of the best unintentionally hilarious characters in any medium. His overly formal mannerisms and speech patterns give him a comedic flair to which he is entirely oblivious. Most of the Creature Commandos fill roles in army movies: Velcoro plays the part of the jaded vet, while Griffith is the new guy eager to please, and Khalis plays the strong, silent guy of whom no one is sure what to think. Mazursky is a scientist who can fight but usually doesn’t. Despite the somewhat archetypical sides of everyone, they’re all great characters with a good dynamic that I’m interested in watching develop.
Alberto Ponticelli’s art has gotten some mixed opinions, but I personally love it for the feel of the book. His lines are sharp and unstable, lending themselves well to the “monsters fighting monsters” element.
If you’re not reading Frankenstein yet, go out and get it. It shouldn’t be missed by anyone who reads comics regularly.
Other Notable Titles
Avengers Academy #22
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Sean Chen
Another fine issue of Avengers Academy, guest-starring the Uncanny X-Men! Last issue, at the new Academy building in the old West Coast Avengers compound, the computer intelligence caretaker Jocasta appeared to have been killed – her body and her mind destroyed. At the beginning of this issue, Giant-Man finds strange, unfamiliar electromagnetic imprints. To get help in identifying the mysterious radiation, he calls Magneto, who now fights for Cyclops’ X-Men team. Magneto’s arrival with Cyclops and the telepath Emma Frost doesn’t sit well with his son Quicksilver, the super-fast teacher who’s been with the Academy from the beginning.
Finesse has been taking private lessons with Quicksilver to learn what Magneto taught him as a child, and she knows about their incredibly strained relationship. She spies on the meeting with Magneto and attacks him when the conversation gets heated. Magneto protects himself, which in turn prompts Quicksilver to protect Finesse. Emma Frost stops everyone before the fight involves the whole school.
Magneto can’t identify the energy exactly, but says it could possibly have come across dimensions or even time. Though it isn’t a concrete answer, this eases Giant-Man slightly, as he was worried there was a saboteur or infiltrator who would be a threat to the students.
At the end, Finesse goes to Quicksilver and offers what she thinks of Magneto now that she’s met him, and asks Quicksilver to teach her how to be more like him.
Avengers Academy is one of my favorite books going for several reasons, and this issue highlights one of them: the dynamics between the characters within the book and the greater Marvel universe. Quicksilver has made mistakes in the past, and he never really got past being the son of one of the most fearsome terrorists in the world. Seeing him talk to Magneto for the first time in a while showed that Quicksilver is still bitter, even if his father thinks things can be “okay” between them. “Bitter” makes it sound like Quicksilver doesn’t have good reasons, but he does; for one thing, Magneto would have people attack him and his sister, the Scarlet Witch, in their sleep when they were young. Finesse defending Quicksilver speaks volumes not only about her relationship to him but her transitive relationship to Magneto.
Finally, last issue, the archer Avenger Hawkeye joined the full-time teaching staff at the Academy, and he’s already becoming a great addition to the cast. He harbors doubts about Cyclops’ new X-Men, as Magneto and Emma Frost were both villains once. He’s convinced Emma is mind-controlling Cyclops, but Giant-Man informs him that Wolverine vouched for both her and Magneto being heroes now. Regardless, Hawkeye takes his instructions to supervise the students and tells them all he’ll be teaching them how to resist mind control “for no particular reason.” It’s a funny moment that serves to characterize Hawkeye as a new teacher and is much-needed to break the tension in the rest of the issue.
Batman was still great this week, but not a whole lot happened. Regardless, the final page alone is worth the price of admission. As always, Wonder Woman was good. Venom was not quite as good as usual, but an issue of Venom that’s “not quite as good” still amounts to “really good.” Amazing Spider-Man was interesting; his old villain the Vulture returns, having apparently become a king of a flock of goth punks using his technology. It’s a strange direction, but I have liked other showings of the Vulture, so we’ll see how this plays out.