Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review - Flashpoint - Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #1

Flashpoint - Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #1
Written by: Jeff Lemire
Art by: Ibraim Roberson

I came into this title not really knowing what to expect.  I had glanced elsewhere someone describing it as "Hellboy-Lite", and I might be inclined to agree with that sentiment.  Like Helloby, there's some aspects of the fantastic littered all through this series, but it is written squarely in the superhero medium and moves a lot quicker than Mignola's character (not a knock against either, just an observation).  Either way, Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #1 makes for some fast and fun reading, and is well worth your purchasing dollar.

The story opens in the midst of World War 2, following a patrol of American soldiers, led by Lt. Shrieve, in search of Nazis hiding in the frozen wastelands of the North Atlantic.  The Nazis show up at the worst possible time, ambushing the American patrol just as they were giving up on ever locating their German target.  The ensuing firefight has the unexpected benefit of freeing Frankenstein, who, unbeknownst to everyone, was buried beneath the ice.  It was only through the fortuitous explosion of a stray grenade that Frankenstein was freed from his icy prison.  However, his long rest did nothing to slow him down, and he is quick to unleash some whoopass on the Germans.

I don't really know that much about Frankenstein's previous appearances in the DCU, but he makes a pretty good first impression in this book.  It is clear early on, that this iteration of Frankenstein is similar to Mary Shelley's in name only (and not even that, since Frankenstein was the doctor and not the monster, but I digress), but I'm okay with that.  This Frankenstein is superstrong, bullet-resistant, possesses above-average intelligence, and the ability to know the inherent good or evil of everyone around him.  It makes for a pretty cool hero.  I especially appreciate that Lemire manages to convey all of this information about Frankenstein by showing Frankenstein in action, as opposed to telling the reader what Frankenstein is capable of doing.  The comic does a great job of developing its characters, letting them react to events and circumstances in ways that inform the reader naturally about who everyone is.

Of course, the title dictates that there be some Creatures of the Unknown, and the comic does not disappoint.  Shortly after Frankenstein's appearance, the mysterious "Project M" provides a pseudo Wolfman, Vampire, and Creaturess of the Black Lagoon to accompany our patchwork hero.  Along with the aforementioned Lt. Shrieve, this motley crew gets up to all kinds of World War 2 shenanigans.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and once the war is won, the "freaks" are put down and placed in cryogenic sleep, just in case they might be needed in the future.  This portion of the comic is always very well-handled, done in a neat and interesting way that hints at future confrontations.

The issue ends with the monsters waking up for reasons unknown, finding themselves in the "present".  Confused, they decide to make their way Gotham-wards, hoping to find a cure for their conditions.  The US government isn't too keen about having rogue monsters roaming the countryside, but they have a potential solution that ties in nicely with everything else that has happened in the issue.

I've been a little more explicit (while still trying to avoid major details) about what goes on in this issue, but it's mostly to emphasize how much stuff does go on.  This book is jam packed with stuff going on.  It moves quickly, but the reader never has trouble keeping up with what's happening.  At the same time, it manages to establish some engaging characters who I am excited to follow into issue #2.

Closing Thoughts - As a Flashpoint tie-in, this book is a bit of a failure, barely touching on the wider series at all.  However, this is also one of the book's greatest strengths.  It is content to tell its own story at its own pace, and the story it has is fantastic thus far.  There are intriguing characters, a solid foundation, and some exciting conflict on the horizon.  I don't rightly know what else you'd want.

If this is at all an indication of what Jeff Lemire's Frankenstein book is going to be like this Fall, sign me up, because this is great.

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