Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #1 (of 3)
Story by Jeff Lemire
Cover by Doug Mahnke
Art by Ibraim Roberson
Frankenstein (or rather, his monster) is such a great literary character and one that can be used in a variety of mediums. It’s no surprise that Frankenstein has been used in comics from both Marvel and DC to varying levels of success. Traditionally DC’s take on the character had been Lucky Taylor, who wasn’t actually Frankenstein, but a guy made to look like Frankenstein in the oddball Sgt. Fury-like comics, “Weird War Tales”. He was part of the Creature Commandos, who much like their namesake are a bunch of monsters.
More recently, Grant Morrison revived Frankenstein’s monster in the DC universe, but this time as the actual creation of Dr. Frankenstein. He became popular enough through the Seven Soldiers saga back in 2005, that he’s getting an update during DC’s Flashpoint saga. It’s a short three issue story that takes place in the Flashpoint storyline universe, but is largely unconnected enough that you don’t have to be following that story to enjoy this one.
That’s a good thing for me, as I haven’t followed DC closely enough for years to make much sense of Flashpoint and with DC planning on scrapping all this continuity in a few months anyway, it’s rather pointless to try and catch up. Jeff Lemire of Sweet Tooth fame is on board as the main man behind Frankenstein and now he’s taken Morrison’s Frankenstein (or Morrison’s take on Shelley’s Frankenstein, as it were) and combined them with a Flashpoint universe version of the Creature Commandos. So how does it all work out in the first of this three part mini-series?
Look at that cover. Man that’s a fantastic cover. It’s a shame that almost nothing inside lives up to that sort of hype. The idea on paper is fantastic. Frankenstein is the perfect sort of character to play with and turn into a Hellboy-like character. It’s probably not an original idea (hell I played plots like this with my Frankenstein toys decades ago) but it’s one that if done right, could be a lot of fun. The results here are in my opinion, a bit mixed.
The premise is very good and the few pages where Frankenstein is fighting in World War II against Nazis, really had me excited. Unfortunately it’s just a few pages and the promise of Frankenstein versus Hitler, is reduced to one or two really lame panels. These are easily the worst comic book incarnations of Nazis ever. The real Nazis were steeped in the occult and pseudo-science, so you’d think that a comic book where Frankenstein battles the Nazis would be lots of fun. Instead it’s total fodder.
I suppose because this is all backstory to the larger Flashpoint story, it’s somewhat excusable. The actual Flashpoint elements are probably the most interesting. Almost interesting enough for me to pick up a few other DC comics and see what the hell is going on… Almost. Unfortunately everything else in this book feels terribly rushed. The new Creature Commandos (now known as the Creatures of the Unknown) have been given a little more character, but there’s not enough dialogue or character development for us to really care. Vincent Velcoro, the vampire bat Dracula character is a dick. We know so, because every other line about him mentions that he’s evil.
Warren Griffith, the Wolf Man, is dumb like a dog. Dr. Myrra Rhodes AKA Medusa, is omitted, replaced by Lemire’s new character, Nina Mazursky, who is a take off the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s quaint and all to have such a clear lineup of Universal Monsters as a superhero team, but again it’s so forced that it’s robbed of any fun it might have been. Nina, the Gillwoman is terribly derivative of Abe Sapien, right down to his movie fish bubble helmet.
Perhaps that’s one of the biggest problems with this comic that I had. I couldn’t help but thinking how much better this would be if it’d been in the hands of Mike Mignola, or even someone like Thomas Hall (Robot 13) who would craft some substance and passion behind the style. Lemire made it very clear in interviews that he was writing this book to be right in the same line as Hellboy, so it’s a shame that this first issue feels so devoid of the Mignola charm.
The cover by Doug Mahnke is quite good, but it’s a shame that the interior art by Ibraim Roberson is so dull and bland. Not to sound like a broken record, but the art feels rushed. Certain pages have plenty of details and Roberson has a couple of nice shots of Frankenstein throughout (when he’s not drawing the Hulk with stitches), but many panels feel as though details were simply omitted. Many of the pages look blurred and if this is an intentional style choice, it’s not one I much care for.
Somewhat incredibly, there is a mini-comic for Super 8 attached inside that features vastly superior art by Tommy Lee Edwards. It’s troubling when what amounts to a glorified advertisement is better drawn than the book you paid $2.99 for. Herein lies another problem I have… There are a ton of ads throughout this book. Not the fun kind that might one day be featured on a Classic Comic Ad, but the annoying, cloying kind that clutter up the book and interrupt your reading. There are 18 pages of actual comic included and an astounding 16 pages of advertisements. Most of which, mind you, are shilling Green Lantern crap. As if Green Lantern needed anymore of a push in the pages of DC comics.
All that said, you might think I absolutely hated this comic. That’s not true. The premise is still strong enough that I’m at least marginally intrigued to see where this three issue arc goes. The introduction of Miranda Shrieve (Granddaughter of original Creature Commando leader Matthew Shrieve) as what appears to be a Buffy/Van Helsing rip off, could be fun. Jeff Lemire could be on to something with this group, so long as he doesn’t do things so ham fisted in the future.
Lemire will be writing the upcoming Frankenstein book once DC reboots and thankfully, he’ll have a different artist in tow. With any luck, by that time he’ll have gotten the kinks out of this particular incarnation of the character. Frankenstein is a great character and Lemire seems to have a bit of vision as to where he wants him to go, he just needs to learn how to implement it better. I looked around and many other reviewers had given this book a fair amount of praise, but I’m inclined to just say that this book has lots of promise but fails in execution. Perhaps if issues 2 and 3 are stronger, this will turn out to be a fun little mini series that just had a force fed start because of timing issues.