The second (and final) Frankenstein Agent of S.H.A.D.E. collection leads off with the last two stories by departing writer Jeff Lemire. They are far more consequential than two single issue stories would normally be. In "The Spawn of Frankenstein" Frankenstein and Lady Frankenstein seek their child (the result of a DNA combination by S.H.A.D.E.) who they had thought long dead. It turns out that the mutant had been kept alive without their knowledge, a revelation which shakes the morale of several members of the cast. In the end Lady Frankenstein must kill the child, and resigns as a S.H.A.D.E. agent. "Animal Tracks" begins the tie-in with the Rotworld story line (although the "Rotworld" logo doesn't appear on the cover until Issue 13, four issues later). The organization comes to San Diego to investigate the disappearance of Animal Man, along with his family and the San Diego P.D. detective they last had contact with. Frank and Nina (a fish woman who reminds me of Abe Sapien of B.P.R.D.) find the detectives body, and soon find themselves under attack by the rot. It takes a Black Bomb (which atomizes any living thing within range) to neutralize them.
New writer Matt Kindt debuts with Issue 10, Part 1 of "Son of Satan's Ring." No sooner has a S.H.A.D.E. librarian told Frankenstein about rumors of a ring of traitors called "Satan's Ring" than he finds himself attacked by deadly insects called Scare-Eb Agents (gotta love the names in this series). They're usually employed by S.H.A.D.E. for covert assassinations. So Frank and a group of Creature Commandos head out to the extra-dimensional Fourth Cloud to track down rogue agent Crowly.
This book is such an insane mess of monster madness that I'm really sorry that this collection will be the last of it.
My Frankenstein issues are on the collossal Pile-O-Shame, so, sad to say, I haven't gotten to them yet. Sounds like a wild ride!
The remaining two parts of "Son of Satan's Ring" seem a bit rushed; I wonder if the end of the series wasn't already being planned. Kindt hurries the narrative along by having Part 3 told in the form of a briefing for Father Time, which allows for brief exposition of action that would have taken many more pages to tell in first person. Frankenstein arrives in the Leviathan, the source of the mole; quickly learns what is going on; kills the Leviathan; and averts a disaster at the S.H.A.D.E. headquarters in the Leviathan Graveyard. In the end he has an army of allies, ready to face the return of his creator Victor Frankenstein, who has "brought the Rot back with him."
Despite the rush, there is an interesting subplot of Frank experiencing flashbacks tied to the lives of the humans who donated his body parts. There are a number of these little flashback panels (done in sepia tones so it is clear that they exist outside the current action) that appear before there is any explanation, which I thought was a subtle bit of story telling. The writer transition is quite seamless as well: there's no change in the tone or the dialog. Lemire and Kindt have switched off in the past (even on Lemire's creator-owned Sweet Tooth). Kindt continues the clever use of acronyms, e.g. P.E.E.P. (Psionic EKG Extrapolation Program) and D.R. H.I.D.E. (Dermal Reconaissance Hiding for Influencing Disguise Expectations).
Victor's return leads directly into the 0 issue, "Meeting His Maker," which tells Frankenstein's origin story (DC Comics Proudly Presents: Before the New 52! trumpets the title page). It reveals a lot about Dr. Frankenstein's technology, shows how the monster discovered his humanity, and ends with Frank killing Victor and meeting the then-current Father Time to be recruited into S.H.A.D.E.
Which takes us to the three part "Rotworld: Secrets of the Dead" story arc. The entire world has been falling into rot while Frankenstein has been underwater on the Leviathan. Frank has unique status as a living being who is invulnerable to rot (he is already dead, after all, and was created using "unnatural science"). So both S.H.A.D.E. and the Red are looking to him for help. Over the course of these issues he and his fellow Creature Commandos travel the globe seeking the parts of Victor's soul-grinder machine. The parts are hidden inside giant creatures called Collosi, which offers lots of opportunities for epic monster battles. In the end the small S.H.A.D.E. band assembles the machine, and use it to defeat Victor, as well as to create an army that is also rot-resistant. At the end of Part 3 we are told "Thanks to Frank and his army, the Red and the Green were able to return the world to order. See Animal Man Vol. 3 and Swamp Thing Vol. 3."
I guess that could be regarded as an enormous spoiler, but then again this is comics. I haven't read those other collections yet, but I felt pretty certain that the Rot was going to be defeated somehow. It's the details that matter, so I'm still looking forward to reading those stories.
The last issue "The Monster Bomb" shows the entire S.H.A.D.E. team back in action, looking alive and restored to normal. Which is also a spoiler of sorts. But I'm glad to see them back, even though their story is over for now. DC could have killed them all off, which is how things were looking at the end of the "Rotworld" arc.