Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #1
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by David Rubin and Kike J. Diaz
Lettering by David Rubin
Published by Dark Horse Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Spinning off of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Eisner-winning series Black Hammer comes Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, a surprisingly unassuming debut issue given its outlandish title that happens to be buoyed by some breathtaking art. Hot off his collaboration with Matt Kindt on Ether, artist David Rubin makes Sherlock Frankenstein a must-read affair, giving Lemire plenty of time to unspool his weird and wild superhero mystery.
For those who haven’t read Black Hammer, the premise is simple - after a battle for the ages against the Anti-God, an entire generation of Spiral City’s superheroes vanished into another dimension. But Sherlock Frankenstein shows us the world the heroes left behind, as the Black Hammer’s daughter, reporter Lucy Weber, is on the case - and her investigation is pointing her in the direction of supervillain supreme Sherlock Frankenstein.
While there’s plenty of metacommentary and downright poignance to this Black Hammer spinoff - think Watchmen but with more playfulness and heart - the real star of the show for this book isn’t the titular Frankenstein (who only appears in flashback), but artist David Rubin. Drawing, coloring and lettering the book all by himself, Rubin operates in that same style as Rafael Grampa, Paul Pope, or David Lafuente, a sketchiness of line that belies a world of detail and grit. Rubin is the kind of artist that’s too weird for the Big Two, which is a shame, because his sense of design work is just so killer, selling all of Lemire’s crazy ideas (such as a literally stone-faced security guard named the Concretestador) with style and panache. Rubin’s sense of color also makes this book half-candy-coated caffeine rush, half-crazy acid trip, even using the lettering to give his pages a trippy, unpredictable energy. It’s magnificent stuff, and I for one am going to keep an eye out on his work.
It’s Rubin’s virtuosic artwork that also gives Lemire some breathing room, as his spinoff story actually is more of a slow burn than a big bang. With a title as wild as Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, you’d expect for something over-the-top, but Lemire’s approach actually puts some nutty characters in some fairly low-key situations. This is a detective story more than a rollicking action story, but Lemire is able to leverage this to evoke some actual emotion - in particular, learning the sad secret origin of a hulking metal monstrosity called Mectoplasm, whose personal struggles seem all the more poignant when positioned against the Concretestador’s black-and-white law-and-order mentality. Lemire’s use of puns as character concepts is almost Piers Anthony-esque, but he’s able to double down on his goofy names to make them all work. It’s understated but strong work.
For an eye-grabbing title like Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, writer Jeff Lemire upends expectations with this quiet debut issue, thanks to some magnificent artwork from David Rubin. For those who are looking for more of the unique sensibilities of Lemire’s work on Black Hammer, you’ve definitely come to the right place, as this book balances show-stopping, beautiful visuals with quiet character moments, making this spinoff a book that’s definitely worth your time.