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The Wise Doctor Frankenstein

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The large, central panel on the first page shows a skyscraper-tall monster laying defeated in rubble across the road from the White House. Next is this:

It's no accident that he kinda looks like a monkey.

“–it’s Frankenstein.”

Only four issues in, still not yet through its first story arc, Doc Frankenstein has already clearly stated a viewpoint. Progress is its hero, and those who oppose progress are the enemy. It’s social and scientific progress, free thought and the marketplace of ideas, those greats of American ideology, vs. that other great of American ideology — religion. Doc Frankenstein maintains no subtlety and pulls no punches: Religion is the badguy.

The title character of this book is the same monster from Mary Shelley’s original novel, having taken his father’s name and survived through to the present (though a very comic book present, without restraints on technology or finance). His mind was strong from the start, as per Mary Shelley’s text, and has only grown stronger in almost 200 years. He speaks with wisdom, reason, and an eloquence not found in most other characters who could leap from a tower into an onslaught of dozens of attacking fighter jets, and deal them some serious damage.

You should see him dunk.

His words come from the Wachowski Brothers, the pair behind The Matrix trilogy and the recent adaptation of V for Vendetta, and these three worlds of theirs fit together perfectly: geeky genre stuff, extended and bathed in philosophizing and social opinion. Though the concept and characters of Doc Frankenstein were created by comic book artists Geof Darrow and Steve Skroce (who did concept art and storyboard work, respectively, for The Matrix films), it’s hard to imagine how this universe could work through any voice other than that of the verbose Wachowskis — but they’re apparently only writing this introductory arc, so I guess eventually we’ll find out.

The religious enemy of Doc Frankenstein’s world has more than email petitions and governmental influence to fight progress with — that armada of fighter planes I mentioned before, each one has a cross on its nose and a pilot wearing rosary beads in its cockpit. The idea of an assault on Catholicism has been done a lot in the nefarious Liberal Media of late, though rarely is it as unrelenting as it is here:

A classic lover

Most popular media attacks on religion have that little out in there somewhere: “This criticism only applies to the bad Christians; the good ones are okay in our book!” Doc Frankenstein does, at one point, identify the attackers as zealots (specifically: “The only good zealot is a dead zealot.”), but there certainly hasn’t been any non-zealot religious person wheeled out in these books to show us the sunnier side of Jesus. We begin the second issue with a short chronicling of three historical attempts by the religious to gang up on Doc, and their motivations are quite telling: first was when he was en route to help President Lincoln on the issue of slavery; next was when he offered to assist Clarence Darrow to defend the teaching of evolution at the Scopes Monkey Trial; and the third came after he did an interview in Hustler magazine where he supported the Roe v. Wade decision. As I said: no subtlety, pulls no punches.

This includes the art. The book is drawn by Steve Skroce, and he’s man not afraid of being detailed or graphic: panels of calm show every ripple in cloth, every wrinkle in flesh, while panels of action overflow with explosions, blood, debris, gore, shattered glass, bullet casings, smoke, flame, and I could go on. A full page, wide vista image of his will offer enough new things to notice for ten read-throughs, easy. His pictures are worth at least a thousand and one words.

Yes, he's doing exactly what you think he's doing.

It’s difficult to comment on the story at this point, because there really hasn’t been too much of it yet; 4 issues in, and it still feels like we’re late into Act 1 (maybe early Act 2). This wouldn’t bother me at all, except that the first issue came out in November 2004, and issue #5 is only coming out next month. They’re taking their sweet time, and while this isn’t a comment on the quality of the books at all, it’s a bit frustrating nonetheless. Fortunately, I’m a patient man.

It’s hard to say where the plot will go, but there’s a suggestion that they’re going to pull away from their hard-science stance, maybe throw a crisis of faith at Doc Frankenstein; it’s a typical Wachowski move — V for Vendetta dealt some deliberate contradictions of motivation and consequence for its main character, and The Matrix trilogy offers up, if you want it to, thoughts on just about any aspect of modern humanity you can name, and looks at each from more than a few perspectives (but that’s five or six or twenty-six posts in and of itself — oh, you know it’s coming). There have still only been a couple of glances of the seemingly magical “Tinkerbell-like fairy” the Doc inadvertently releases from a sealed chamber in the Church stronghold, but it’s clear something big will come of it. I’m eager to find out what; I’m just fearful that it won’t happen until the end of the decade.

I also wanted to talk about Tex, but I think we’ve hit the end here, so I’ll just say this: he’s Doc’s best friend — he’s Texan, rough n’ raw, hard-drinkin’, hard-cussin’, a gunslinger and a werewolf. He’s amazing and hilarious and is another reason why it’s painful to wait so long for the next issue. laebmada


As only the rational man can...

One Comment leave one →
  1. Thursday, June 29, 2006 8:59 pm

    And I thought Astonishing X-Men getting bumped to bi-monthly was bad, but 4 issues in a year-and-a-half?

    That’s ridiculous.

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