Colour Frankenstein Disappointing

Frankenstein: Agent of Shade is one of those comic-books which throws idea after idea out, in quick succession, without checking to see if any of them are hitting home. It’s fast moving, silly, brash and entertaining for it. But more to the point, it’s a book where the art is currently actively working against the merits of the script and central cast. More to the point still, it’s not the pencilling of Alberto Ponticelli which disappoints, but the colouring job by Jose Villarrubia. It’s severely hindering the title.

I’ve always tried on this site to take the colouring into account whenever I review a title, an initiative kicked off a few years ago when colourist Val Staples left a comment thanking me for not forgetting the role that colourists play in making a title work. For the most part, this has meant noting the quality work done by people like Sonia Oback, Laura Martin and others, and how they can elevate a comic through the strength of their design. Francesco Francavilla’s art pops because the colouring job he lays on is stark and bold, driving the reader around the art. In Frankenstein: Agent of Shade, the work simply doesn’t hold up.

Everything in the comic is muted, from the bizarre creatures that fight the heroes to the settings and Frankie himself. Throughout the most recent issue, which is number #7, he looks less like a stitched-together monster and more like a shiny melon with eyes. The colouring job seems so faded that everything has a kind of cheap shine, and nothing is able to pop off the page. The fight scenes fail to catch the readers attention – on page 7, for example, there is a fight initiated between Frankenstein and his allies; and a group of robots. This page doesn’t have a background. Now, part of that is because Ponticelli’s didn’t draw one. But at the same time, Villabrrubia chooses for the background to be stark white. In the other panels on the same page, there is a clear greenish-tinge to the back wall, but the big splash page itself is completely white, and makes the fight scene look like it’s taking place in some kind of limbo. It acts against the image of the fight itself.

Part of this seems to rest with a change in inker. Ponticelli had previously been inking his own work, but the arrival of Walden Wong has cleaned up the look of the art, and left it feeling far too restrained and faded.

The colouring isn’t all bad. On the very next splash page, Villarrubia does some fun stuff with the fight scene, including the flare from several lasers which are fired by the villains. A scene with Ray Palmer using his Atom powers to kill a group of enemies is well rendered, with the effect looking great on the page. But the main cast again seem defiantly muted in colour. Frankenstein is a weak green, while two of his compatriots are THE SAME COLOUR. There’s supposed to be chaos reigning down everywhere, but the yello robot blood is simple and textureless, and looks awful on the page. There are several spots which have simply been missed out, and so are white. Two pages on from this, the yellow background overlaps the costume of Lady Frankenstein. It’s meant to convey how the light from a door is hitting her, but it looks more like somebody forgot to colour her arm in.

A high-concept title filled with silly ideas – which is what Frankenstein is under Lemire’s pen – needs big, bold, brash colouring. Instead, we’re given a rather weak rendering of the mad sci-fi which makes everything look like wallpaper. The backgrounds and foregrounds are equally dull and diluted, and the book suffers as a result. Frankenstein has the potential to be a fun little book, but as it stands the artwork simply doesn’t stand out enough.


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