Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil
Reprints Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #1-4
Written by Jeff Lemire
Art by David Rubin
Taking a step back from the events of Black Hammer: The Event, we get to read the story of how Lucy Weber investigated the disappearance of her superhero father. Using her position as a reporter for the Global Planet, Lucy begins uncovering details about what happened the day Anti-God invaded Spiral City. This leads her to an asylum on the edges of town where the name “Sherlock Frankenstein” is given to her by an inmate. Frankenstein is a notorious supervillain who was seen being quite active the day of Anti-God’s invasion. Lucy becomes convinced that this mastermind is behind the vanishing and possible death of her dad. However, a shadowy conspiracy seems intent on blocking Lucy’s further prying.
Right off the bat, I found this spin-off mini-series not to be quite as compelling as the core Black Hammer series. I think the cliffhanger we left on had me interested to see where that main story goes, but in wanting to read these stories in the order of intended consumption, I went with the Sherlock volume. It’s not a bad story but a bit of a momentum killer because I think it’s pretty apparent the villains introduced in this volume aren’t behind the heroes’ transporting to a pocket universe. What Sherlock Frankenstein does is some excellent worldbuilding with a focus on the villains. They are all interesting takes and reinterpretations of well-known archetypes which continues what Lemire was doing with superheroes in the main title.
The two main villains featured, aside from the titular Frankenstein are Cthu-Lou and Metal Minotaur. Cthu-Lou is an obvious play on the classic Lovecraftian cosmic god. In this instance, Lou was a plumber than ended up coming face-to-face with the dark being and was forced to become his avatar on Earth. This doesn’t mean that Lou has succumbed to the manipulations of the evil otherworldly creature, instead, he’s split his life between his domestic existence and then being strung along with other villains. His wife Elaine is overprotective and manipulative with their daughter, Cthu-Louise caught in the middle. You can feel the threads of this idea that Lemire has been playing with in his head for years now. Cthu-Lou feels like one of those names you jot down while doodling and it just grows from there. As Lemire does with all the villains in this story, he’s able to hone in on the sympathetic elements of the characters and recontextualizes their conflict with the heroes as a strange ritualized conflict. It’s as if these sides are destined to play these battles out generation after generation yet can break bread outside of the battle performances.
Metal Minotaur is a play off of cybernetically enhanced characters like The Rhino from the pages of Spider-Man or to a lesser extent some of the Iron Man analog villains (Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man). Lucy Weber is shocked when she learns this hulking, metallic brute was a woman. As the story of the Metal Minotaur unfolds we learn about a moment of exceptional empathy Black Hammer showed his nemesis at a point in her life when her role as a villain and her desire to harm him reached a dangerous climax. Like all the other interviews with villains, this is a very dialogue heavy story. The emphasis is on whom these characters used to be and where they are at now, exploring different reactions than we expect to well-trod comic tropes. I connected with the Metal Minotaur story over the Cthu-Lou issue with that previous chapter feeling more comedic than dangerous.
When Lucy finally does get to confront Sherlock Frankenstein, I felt the series lost some steam. In no way did I find the finale to this side story fulfilling. I don’t think it lives up to the tension being built in the rest of the story and doesn’t do anything surprising enough to label it as a play on established comic tropes. Sherlock is sort of the mastermind villain we would expect him to be from the build-up and between his cameo in Black Hammer and what other characters have had to say about him in this series, we know he isn’t going to end up being a one-dimensional monster. He gets an interesting enough origin, but I still don’t feel he is fleshed out enough to be a figure that would grab the reader’s attention.
I’ll be pausing the Black Hammer stories, for now, not wanting to burn through them all too quickly. However, next week I’ll still be reading work by Jeff Lemire, this time in the first volume of his new horror series Gideon Falls.