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Doc Frankenstein #2

Well, I’ll give the Wachowskis this: they did manage to cut down on the shitty narration.

In this latest issue, we get a clearer view of the Wachowski plan for our good old title hero: Frankenstein’s Monster as the Ultimate Liberal. Well, the Ultimate Social Liberal I suppose; we’re again denied Doc’s insights on economic policy or his plans for reformed health care coverage, sadly. What we do get is a very long tirade on how Christian zealotry really sucks, stocked to bursting with heroes so noble, villains so wicked, situations so black and white, caricatures so lazy, that one is almost forced to evaluate the story as a piece of cackling flamebait directed toward the American Religious Right, since it’s utterly inept in any other capacity. Call it preaching to the converted if you will (lol), but I doubt readers even entirely simpatico with the writers’ political stances will feel terribly comfortable with it.

You see, the brilliant and compassionate Doc Frankenstein keeps having his home destroyed by Evil Priests (the sect is never named, but the iconography of Catholicism is largely evoked, probably all the better for villainous uniforms). First he decides to take his hand-made steam-powered locomotive to aid President Abraham Lincoln at the close of the Civil War, but the Evil Priests think that slavery is protected by the Bible, so they blow up his train and orchestrate dear Mr. Lincoln’s demise. Decades later, Doc makes a fortune off of booze during Prohibition (“The abandon with which people lived inside the speakeasy taught me more about being human than all the works of the great philosophers,” muses Doc, and I totally agree - that time I went to this party and got really fucked up: MUCH better than Aristotle). But then he decides to spend some of his ill-gotten cash to hire Clarence Darrow for the defense at the Scopes Monkey Trial, so the Evil Priests burst in and shoot the place up, and… er… I guess he leaves. Even more decades later, Doc appears in Hustler to applaud Roe v. Wade and announce the development of this new male contraception pill that he’s been developing. On cue, Evil Priests. Shootings. I’m guessing scenes of a leering Bishop crushing the vial containing Doc’s cure for AIDS underneath his boot while dropping a whimpering panda cub into a cauldron of boiling oil were cut due to pacing concerns. “I had forgotten the nature of my enemy. Forgotten the hate that they pass like an heirloom from one generation to the next. Forgotten the ignorance that they defend as though it were a divine right.” Thus says Doc, clearly figuring that anyone reading this book must be way too stupid to puzzle out these very complex themes from merely panel after panel after panel of priests shooting stuff.

So anyway, as we left it last issue, the Evil Priests have launched yet another attack on Doc’s peaceful world. This time, Doc has built a high-tech fortress-city for himself and “thousands of people, each of them an outcast,” although there’s only four of them that get significant speaking roles, two of which are hot young women (one of them in a teeny dress), with the others being a talking bird and some ugly guy who turns out to be a traitor. The Evil Priests attack, equipped with a massive bomb supplied to them by Horrid Christian Conservatives in Washington. Doc flies out and kills hundreds of them. “The only good zealot is a dead zealot,” Doc helpfully reminds us before triggering his own huge bomb, wittily named ‘The Big Bang’ (THAT’S A TOPICAL JOKE, FOLKS!). But the Evil Priests are too cunning and they invade Doc’s happy home, which is great, because the Wachowskis don’t quite think they’ve hammered home their ultra-obscure theme of “Seaguy”-level complexity nearly enough, so we get... Witty Banter!

Scenario #1: An Evil Priest puts a gun to the head of the Attractive Lady With the Tiny Dress:

A woman does not belong on the battlefield.”

Misogyny? From a religious man? How novel.”


Scenario #2: Five panels later, the Evil Priest has kicked the woman to the floor.

Since when do priests know kung-fu?”

We have always been forced to pick up the weapons of our enemies.”

Yeah, I’m sure that kick comes in handy whenever you have to turn the other cheek.”


Scenario 3: Doc is threatened.

You have one and only one option: surrender to us now, in which case I will hand this detonator over to the young lady, or watch me push this button and turn every living thing in a hundred mile radius into cinder and ash.”

And you call me a monster.”


And so on.

So as you can see, it’s all profoundly stupid, dazzlingly idiotic comics. It’ll never offend a soul; I can’t imagine even the staunchest Christian Fundamentalist comics fan picking this up and not giggling him or herself to weeping. It’s like a bizarro Chick tract. It helps that some of it is genuinely amusing; Steve Skroce knows the humor value of a wide panel depicting the Frankenstein Monster in a full tuxedo battling mobs of cassock-clad clerics with tommy guns, and he exploits it richly. The action remains clear, and the designs are attractive. It’s very traditional (if a bit bloodier than average), but nothing’s wrong with that.

Yeah. I’ve spent way too much space here. Now I’ll have to skimp on my “Punisher MAX” review, and that’s a tragedy. Maybe this book’s all fun. Just good-natured laughs. Hell, if I was given a quiz, I’d probably agree with 98% of the Wachowskis’ politics, from what I’ve seen here.

But… no. No, I’m convinced after two issues that this book isn’t entirely a pisstake. I’m convinced that the fabulously successful writers really do think they’re bringing home a solid message with the laughs and killings. An oft repeated message. Repeated dozens of times. And reliant on grotesque simplifications and stripped of any subtlety and utterly deaf to even the possibility of acknowledging the opposite side as anything less than total human sludge.

So really, it’s entirely a laugh anyway.

The Punisher MAX #17


Key bits from this issue:

-Frank kills a particular villain by picking him up by the leg and smashing him against the floor until he’s hamburger. Then he stops out of concern for a little girl’s emotional state.

-Someone says “I was a little concerned when your infallible super-hobbit fucked things up,” in serious conversation.

-Frank teachers kids not to play with guns AND not to cuss.

-At one point, Nick Fury removes the belt from his trousers and straps a high-ranking member of the US Military until he’s bloody.

-There’s a sequence where Our Hero gathers his strength by reliving his origin, in true cornball style.

-It turns out that only the baldest and fattest ex-Soviets can see through the lies of American pigs.

-The issue concludes with The Punisher in total control of Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

With all that entertainment, no review is needed.