The Universe So Far

Frankenstein faces the perils of small town America

By far the greatest rash of first issues this month comes of course from DC and their ‘soft reboot‘, and I would be remiss if I failed to take a look at them. Two of the titles that really grabbed my interest are ones that I feel may be overlooked while in the store. If you miss these, it would be a great shame. Both titles promise to be ones that may disappear quickly at first glance, but if you give them a chance, I think they will sink their hooks into you just as much as they have me.

The first recommendation from this week’s shipping has to be Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.  Combining elements from Grant Morrison’s portrayal of the constructed creature in the Seven Soldiers epic and of course the odd panel in Final Crisis; with the dark mythology of the last three Freedom Fighters series, we get to see our favourite not-quite-zombie teamed with a smattering of Creature Commandos straight out of Flashpoint, on a quest to save his intemperate wife in a scenario that reminds me of the Feast movie-trilogy. Let me add, this story is far better than those three movies combined, considering that is possesses elements of plot and characterisation that goes beyond the two-dimensional stereotypes.

Guest starring Ray Palmer, wait until you see what they have done with Father Time! I foresee many black comedy moments ahead.

Meanwhile, DC have decided to flesh out their Arthurian mythos with the Demon Knights. Continuing the Seven Soldiers riff, we have the presence of Sir Ystin, the female Shining Knight. Seven Soldiers established that Camelot has fallen many times throughout history as part of a repeated cycle, and whether her ‘fall’ is the same as Jason Blood’s is open to discussion.

But the greatest member of this cast is not Sir Ystin, Xanadu (I think is it the Madame) or even Jason Blood and his demonic other half. Here we get to see the immortal Vandal Savage, who looks as if he will be forced to take a stand against the evil Queen Morgaine.

In the passage of the single issue, plots and counter-plots abound. Very little depends upon your knowledge of the characters, but of course if you have that knowledge, the experience is greatly enriched. The slightest arch of an eyebrow can speak volumes.

Last week, we saw the release of Animal Man, which goes to show just how blurred the line has become between hero comics and horror comics. True to the later issues of the Vertigo series, the final panels end with a spine-chilling scene that you may have seen before, but deserves a second visit. After all, what is scarier than a small girl who can animate dead carcasses?

It makes me wonder about the thinking behind the revamp. The best age to capture is new comics reader is when they are young, but I would not wish for a child under the age of say, fourteen to read this. Do we need the ‘Mature Readers’ label back? Or some form of rating system?

Dipping into these pages will reward older readers like myself, but we are hardly a new market. DC has upped its game on the page, but as a strategy for new readers?

I hope so, but I doubt it.

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Darren Burr
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A devoted follower of the comics industry and their characters since a child, Darren now plays in many media but always returns to characters in skin-tight costumes beating each other up on the page. Radio host, blogger, fanfic author and producer of You Tube content, Darren idles away his days until his digital conquest of the world is complete.

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