Comics Reviews

What's up, 'Doc Frankenstein'?

EW.com weighs in on the latest comic from ''Matrix'' masterminds the Wachowski Brothers. Plus: a ''Waterworld''-esque apocalyptic saga, a graphic take on ''The Evil Dead,'' and Harvey Pekar's ode to radical student activists of the 1960s

Doc Frankenstein

DOC FRANKENSTEIN
The Wachowski Brothers and Steve Skroce
(Bimonthly; issue Nos. 1-6 are on sale now)
Last month, while the global culture was busy sweating the threat to Christendom represented by the alleged anti-God movie The Golden Compass, the Wachowski Brothers (yup, those Wachowskis) took their own heretical slap at dogma with their latest work. Nobody noticed, probably because it was ''just a comic book.'' Too bad, because it's a good one, albeit not one for the family-fantasy crowd. Doc Frankenstein (published by the Wachowskis' own comics company, Burlyman Entertainment) chronicles the ongoing exploits of Mary Shelley's manmade monstrosity, though they've given him a slight makeover — beginning with the fact that, uh, he isn't dead. He's also Brainiac smart, spiritually woozy, prone to quasi-philosophical ramblings on the nature of man, and a globetrotting adventurer/so-called ''messiah of science'' who's tangled with fundamentalist werewolves and now, The Church itself. (Think Doc Savage meets Eric Powell's The Goon.) The art by Skroce feels like a blockbuster action movie on paper, and the Wachowskis' dialogue is...well, Wachowskian: hilarious, ponderous, totally unique. FOR FANS OF... Garth Ennis' Preacher; Steve Gerber's Man-Thing; the first Matrix movie and some of the second, but definitely not the third, because that one — whoo-boy, I'm still honked off about that one. But I digress. DOES IT DELIVER? Issue 6, after a long delay (the Wachowskis are slooooow), sadly doesn't offer much of the titular character. But it is a showcase for the brothers' ribald irreverence. The warning label on the cover sums it up: ''The Blasphemous, Never Before Told Origin Story of God. (Warning: May cause near-sightedness, hairy palms, and/or eternal damnation.)'' Wait until you behold the true tale of Jesus' conception. I could argue that Doc Frankenstein's high jinks are redeemed by a deep, meaningful critique of dogma and faith — and maybe it is. It's head-shakingly wild stuff, but I look forward to the series focusing anew on its monstrously tortured hero. A- — Jeff Jensen

NORTH WIND
Dave Digilio and Alex Cal
(Monthly; issue Nos. 1-4 are on sale now)
Following a nuclear apocalypse, the whole world is covered in ice and white tigers roam freely around the Santa Monica pier, where local chieftain Eron discovers that her community is short of, uh, an electrical cable. So, the mom of two travels to a market in ''Lost'' Angeles for more supplies, unaware that her son has also come along for the ride. Bartering, and trouble, ensues. FOR FANS OF... Waterworld. DOES IT DELIVER? Actually, Waterworld is a very relevant point of comparison. For, like the infamously overbudget and overblown Kevin Costner movie, North Wind somehow manages to suck much of the excitement from its premise (electrical cable???). This is a comic that needs to heat up in a hurry. C+ — Clark Collis

THE EVIL DEAD
Mark Verheiden and John Bolton
(Monthly; issue No. 1 is on sale now)
In this adaptation of Sam Raimi's shlock-sational 1981 cinematic debut, a carload of friends find their holiday in the woods disturbed by demonic forces. (Like you didn't know that already!) FOR FANS OF... We're going to have to go with The Evil Dead. DOES IT DELIVER? Artist Bolton's work is nicely gruesome, and Battlestar Galactica scribe Verheiden — who wrote the Raimi-produced Timecop — faithfully sticks to the movie's principal plot points and dialogue. But the comic as whole fails to capture either the endearing amateurishness of the original movie or the enduring wonder that is Bruce Campbell's chin. B- — Clark Collis

STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY
Harvey Pekar, Gary Dumm, and others
(Hardcover; on sale now)
American Splendor auteur Pekar gives a somewhat confusing chronicle of the infamous campus radical group SDS, and then turns over the second section of the book to former members' recollections. FOR FANS OF... Black Panthers for Beginners. DOES IT DELIVER? Only if you're looking for a comic that feels like a randomly re-ordered Wikipedia article. Pekar's 50-page overview lacks not only narrative cohesion, but also the human stories that drove the bullet-point history. Unfortunately, the SDS alums tell that human story in essentially the same way, over and over: After they were radicalized, they became frustrated with internecine fighting and disorganization; now they fondly remember their youth (and their marijuana, and their sex-having). Todd Gitlin's The Sixties and the 2002 documentary The Weather Underground would better serve those looking for a crash course on the '60s Left. C — Sean Howe

Originally posted Jan 15, 2008