In Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. #8, Jeff Lemire's penultimate issue before he hands the reins over to Matt Kindt so he can go write Justice League Dark, there's a little bit of a feeling that he felt the need to get this big chunk of story out the door quickly before it closed on him. The story does feel a little rushed, but it remains pretty solid, since it involves two characters we've come to be invested in – the constantly put-upon Frankenstein and his estranged beloved, Lady Frankenstein.
After the last issue, the Frankensteins learned that their son, long thought dead, was alive and had escaped, and it was up to them to track him down. In this issue, we see the history behind this creature – a scientific experiment by Father Time, head of S.H.A.D.E., to use the "jigsaw DNA" of two beings made up of parts from dead people to create a hybrid life-form. The Lady is amazed at the opportunity for motherhood, while the Gentleman, being who he is, finds himself worried about whether or not they were "meant" for such things. The infant creature wakes up ahead of schedule, then springs from its bacta tank and starts gnawing on his mother's throat – prompting Frankenstein to instinctively shoot him dead before it can harm the woman he loves. She, however, is torn up by that, insisting that the creature was just a frightened child who didn't understand anything, and that horrible moment drove a wedge between the two of them that lingered until this day.
How is their child alive? "Father Time and his lab rats can do anything, Frank. You know that. I saw our son. You saw a monster. He saw a weapon."
The Franks track him down to Castle Frankenstein, where their son was instinctively drawn. He's more mature now, but still a lost child unable to speak clearly, or even seem to comprehend his surroundings. They approach him, with Frank having regretted his hair-trigger those many decades ago, resolved to let Lady try to reason with him… but the creature has other plans. Other sad, depressing plans. The rift between the couple may be mended, but they come away with an entirely different reason not to be together. At least in the mind of Lady Frankenstein.
This is the issue where the 'ends justify the means' attitude of Father Time (the mystery of whom we still know nothing about, besides the fact that he chooses a new body each decade, and this time it's a little girl, for comedy, one supposes) explodes. Lady angrily removes herself from S.H.A.D.E.'s employ after this deception and manipulation. Ray Palmer, U.N. advisor, flips out at this revelation that Father Time has been keeping this secret from the Franks, and stalks off, saying he's seen enough of how S.H.A.D.E. operates and is going to revoke their funding – which seems a little off, seeing as how he seemed fairly cool with fighting alongside them in recent issues. That's where it feels a bit rushed – like Lemire wanted to get these plot points crammed in before next month's crossover with his own Animal Man series and his subsequent departure from this one. Speaking of which – how fascinating is the idea of Frankenstein – a guy made up of dead body parts – meeting up with The Rot that is terrorizing both Animal Man and Swamp Thing? Next issue should be pretty cool.
The art from Alberto Ponticelli in this issue is once again an acquired taste. He's great with really creepy monsters, and Frankenstein himself always looks pretty awesome, but regular people seem a bit off, and there's a messy unpleasance to it sometimes that makes it a little difficult on the eyes now and then.
Overall, this is still a compelling book, where monsters are monsters and they fight other monsters, and sometimes realize all too keenly that they can't really transcend their own monster status. Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is an inherently cool concept, and there's plenty to like here, especially the lovably gruesome lead character. We'll hope that Matt Kindt has more good ideas when he takes over with #10.