Lucy Weber’s search for her missing Father and his friends had led her to their greatest rival: Sherlock Frankenstein. But is he history’s greatest monster as she and everyone believes or is there something more to this literary fusion?
Written by Jeff Lemire
Illustrated by David Rubín
Colored by David Rubín
Flats by Kike J. Diaz
Lettered by David Rubín
Lucy’s search for her missing father–the famed super hero the Black Hammer–leads her to his greatest enemy of all: SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN!
In reading these “Black Hammer” books it’s been interesting to watch writer Jeff Lemire and his various art teams turn our collective understanding of the superhero genre inward toward the personal. On it’s face, from the solicits, “Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil” is about Lucy Weber’s search for her father and the other missing heroes. That is a solid plot for a miniseries that is being published in this interregnum period between “Black Hamer” and “Age of Doom.” Except, that’s not really what this mini has been about. “Legion of Evil” has served as a heroic history of this Earth, a people’s history told from the perspective of its villains; and there is none older than the titular Sherlock Frankenstein. With this character Lemire is able to cast a long historical arc through the various eras of the superhero with a very personal perspective.
With such a large net to cast there is much ground to cover, and how they cover it is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book. Reading this issue, a week after reading “Damage” #1, makes that issues shortcomings and the qualities of this book more apparent. “Sherlock Frankenstein” #4 is listed at 22 pages, and this issue features nine double page spreads with eight of them in a row. Normally that’s the kind of statistic that would lead one to assume this issue is a quick read and not all that fulfilling like “Damage.” Technically speaking the art in “Damage” was fine, but there was a repetitive quality to the imagery and splash pages. With this issue the opposite occurs due to artist David Rubín’s varied ways he uses the expansive space of two pages. Underlying that variety is the picture book quality to Rubin’s illustrations and sensibility of the issue. Artistically Rubin’s work is picture book-esque because they are visuals that confer clear meaning to them. A potential shortcoming of that styles is that these kinds of illustrations tend to be static. The imagery in this comic takes the intent of that style but Rubin adds dynamism, using these larger panels to hold multiple actions within a single panel and placing them within a sequential context. The larger sensibility that informs the narrative running through this issue as it jumps between Sherlock monologued history and a tete-a-tete arguing over it.
The spread that tells early heroic days of Sherlock is framed as this motion filled triptych, that figures him as his literary namesake. Within those three panels, Sherlock is gliding through them creating a clear path for the readers eye to follow. The lower panels on this page are the one that feature more static, call and response style imagery, which in that context provide a change of pace and texture. All in all, it’s 7 panels which is about the average you’d generally find on a single page, but it’s how they use the size in their context as a single panel (the page) that makes it a fulfilling unit of storytelling. That ability to create fulfilling units of storytelling is why those 7 panels don’t leave me wanting as if I’d eaten cotton candy.
A surprising trick Rubín and Lemire do to mix up their spreads is recreating the Sorkin Walk-in-Talk. Going the walk-in-talk approach uses the physical dimensions of the page to create multiple micro scenes within the macro scene of the panel. And like the triptych an image with a clear path for the readers eye to follow. The ones in this issue are not as mind bendy as the tour through the Spiral Asylum, Rubín continues use a mixture of perspective and design when creating a layout for rooms that feels fitting for someone as megalomaniacal as Sherlock Frankenstein and large enough to hold this walking and talking.Continued below
As always with comics it’s about the synergistic storytelling through words and pictures. Sometimes that means using a single big panel as a backdrop for straight up talking heads. That sounds boring compared to previous examples, and to a degree it is. Showing conversation in a visual medium can be difficult, there’s a staid quality even if it features inventive wordplay. Which is why using a giant picture representing the past being spoken about, with the present literally placed over top of it, provides a feeling of dynamism. Funnily enough this layout shifts the emphasis off of the big picture and on to the emotive range of the talking heads go through as they banter about over the backdrop.
In these spreads, Jeff Lemire and David Rubín show excellent comics craftsmanship. None of these images are big for the sake of being BIG. They are big, because that was the necessary space to tell the scene as written. All of these splashes read like a closed loop, that when put into the context of the issue as a whole made for an enjoyable reading experience because the form fit the story being told.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – “Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil” comes to an end with its title villain baring his soul in baroque fashion, providing an entertaining capper to this history of the world of “Black Hammer.”