The cover to my copy of Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1

The story in this issue is pretty straightforward; Frankenstein is called back from his vacation (on Mars) to handle a new mission for the secret and high-tech organization S.H.A.D.E. (the Super Human Advanced Defense Executive) by Father Time. Father Time – referred to by “Frank” as just “Father” on multiple occasions – now inhabits the randomly generated body of a little schoolgirl with a black domino mask. Father Time and Ray Palmer (yes, that Ray Palmer) explain to Frank that strange creatures started showing up in a small town and began eating everyone. Frank’s Bride was sent in to clean up the mess, but she’s gone missing.

Frankenstein and Father Time go to the sequestered town, and it is there that Frank is introduced to his new field team; a creature, a werewolf, a vampire, and a mummy. Three of them were once modern day humans who were transformed into their current state by Dr. Nina Mazursky, who turned herself into a water-breathing gill-woman creature. Together the team goes in to kill the creatures, save any survivors, and find Frankenstein’s Bride.

The cover to my copy of Mister Terrific #1

Mister Terrific #1 gives us a straight-out origin story, touched on by great tragedy. As the world’s “third smartest man” Michael Holt had everything – until his wife and unborn son were killed in a car crash. Made more despondent when even Science seemed to have abandoned him, Holt is about to kill himself when a young man appears in front of him, claiming to be his future son and telling Holt not to give up. Inspired Michael Holt becomes the superhero Mister Terrific. The issue then explores how someone is taking over the minds of citizens and making them sociopathic killers – including Michael Holt!

THE FINAL VERDICTS: I can’t say I recommend either at this time, although both have potential for great future products…Mister Terrific #1 edges out Frankenstein #1 only because of slightly better linework and an actual story.

DC claimed that all this previous continuity they’ve just wiped out was what hindered readers from reading their books, and made writing new stories difficult for them. This is bullshit, and the mark of a lazy creative team (or one trying to figure out how to make their comic characters more movie-friendly). Allow me to explain.

I call this out as bullshit because of Frankenstein et al. #1. As DC’s whole plan with the “New 52” #1s is to give new readers fresh platforms to learn about characters without being confused or tangled up in decades of old continuity, you’d think a book starring Frankenstein’s Monster would be a cinch to jump right into. After all, out of all of literature Mary Shelley’s character has probably the most famous and well known origin story, besting out Batman, Superman, and I’d dare say even SpiderMan. So I can understand that Frank’s creation myth would be something completely left out of this issue.

What isn’t explained is how a creature from the 1800s went from an unloved murdering loner (the Bride was not actually created in the original book, which is the only story I can assume might still be part of Frank’s past) to having a four-armed betrothed and being a super agent in a high-tech secret organization controlled by a little girl claiming to be “Father Time.” Since I’ve never read any of DC’s Frankenstein books previously (other than the Flashpoint mini), I am EXACTLY the demographic DC claims they have destroyed all this wonderful past creation for. I don’t know this character. I don’t know his origin in this timeline. I certainly don’t know what is up with “Father” Time. And, apparently, I am not going to get that in Issue #1 – which is the opposite of what I have been promised multiple times by DC.

Essentially, what the reboot and “Frankenstein and Friends #1” has done is taken all the previous continuity I could have gone and looked up to familiarize myself with what’s happening in this story and replaced it with what seems to be an equally confusing continuity which I can’t look up and learn about. It’s the internet age – if I’m curious as to why Peter Parker is suddenly no longer married I go find out on Wikipedia. If One More Day sounds interesting I’ll probably buy it. That’s the magic of Marvel’s long-standing continuity – if I’m confused and want to find out what’s going on I can. What DC has done, at least with Frankenstein’s book, is force me wait and buy the answers I need – which I can bet won’t be much different than the previous continuity. And I can also bet that it won’t take much for me to decide I don’t care anymore and drop the book. I’m certain that what’s happening in Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. could have been worked into the old DCU…except people were too lazy to do it.

Mister Terrific #1 does things better. Michael Holt’s origins are given to us right out of the gate, so the book does that job well – but I still fail to see why this book could only come from a complete continuity reboot.

Don’t get me wrong, Mister Terrific is a character I’m thrilled to see have his own series, but I have to be honest…I didn’t buy this book for him. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have bought this book at all if it wasn’t for one character; Karen Starr. I knew she was in the book, but what I wasn’t expecting was how she’d be introduced. There’s really no other way to say it…Karen is Holt’s just-in-town-for-business fuck buddy. She’s visiting to deal with some StarrWare issues (at least she’s still a successful business woman) and makes it quite clear to an African-American woman later on that there’s no romance between Starr and Holt – Karen is very adamant about her “just friends” relationship and encourages the woman to make a play. But it is also very clear Karen and Holt have sex…a lot.

I’ll have to see what I think about this relationship and new aspect of Karen’s character – I have no problem with a mature portrayal of equal-opportunity casual sex between consenting adults, but if it starts to be less about Karen’s freedom of post-revolution choice and more about an excuse to strip her down to just tanktops and socks there may be a problem (to be fair, in this issue Holt is also showing an equal amount of skin in the scenes with the mostly-undressed Karen Starr). When she stops being a developing character and becomes nothing more than a tool for a developing male audience that’s when we have a problem.

I want to make a very serious statement to DC; I am reading this book to see how Karen Starr becomes Power Woman (yes, Woman…I think if our first view of her in this continuity is half naked after some afternoon delight we can upgrade from Girl). Once she leaves the book I am done. Power Girl and Zatanna were/are my two favorite DC characters and if they are dropped or totally screwed up I will stop reading.

Despite Karen’s lovely appearance I have to say that I have the same problem with both Frankenstein and Mister Terrific Issue Ones…the art. Frankenstein’s lines are ugly…I know that saying such a thing about what is essentially a horror book sounds odd, and Frankenstein isn’t meant to be a looker. But there is a difference between drawing someone ugly and drawing ugly. Frankenstein’s four-armed bride – who is only in a few panels – is supposed to be fairly attractive, but the sketchy style makes her almost hard to see. Nina doesn’t fair any better, even in her sleek suit.

The line-work in Mister Terrific is much better, but there is a serious issue with faces…all the men have the same face. Sometimes mustaches and hairstyle work to differentiate, but I found myself having to flip back and forth across two pages because I couldn’t keep track of Michael Holt and a presidential candidate – their faces were so warped and similarly drawn I had to take a few seconds to be certain of who I thought was talking.

If I had to recommend one book I’d say pick up Mister Terrific #1. There are hints at an actual story brewing, it’s drawn better, and fans of Karen Starr will not be disappointed (keep an eye out for the evening dress that calls back to a specific detail of her Power Girl outfit). Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #1 is far more concerned with throwing crazy (and sometimes trite) shit at us, hoping we won’t notice there’s not actually all that much really going on.

The fantastically inclined may think they want to pick Frankenstein up for the four-armed bride and Nina the gill-woman, but including the cover Bride only appears three times and each – excluding the cover – is drawn horribly. Nina appears in the book more, but only one panel really shows off her unique biology. You’ll be much happier with normal human Karen Starr.

Both books have serious potential to be amazing and worthy of regular reviews here, but for now if you want to put money into one Mister Terrific #1 is the better choice…of a so-so pair.