Sunday 21st December 2014,
Comic Booked

Shutter #1 Spoiler-Free Review

Cal Cleary 04/09/2014 Reviews

Shutter #1 Review

Joe Keatinge (w), Leila Del Duca (a), Owen Gieni (c), Ed Brisson (l)

Depression can hit pretty hard, and it can make life seem impossible.  Not even necessarily in a suicidal way; often merely in a day-to-day, what-do-I-do-now kind of way.  When you’re in the grips of something like that, it can be hard to find a reason to do the things you love, let alone, say, see the wonder and majesty of the world around you.  In Shutter #1, Joe Keatinge (of the excellent, under-appreciated Glory) and newcomer artist Leila Del Duca have crafted a world of immense oddity and mysterious beauty, and a main character too lost in her own head to see it anymore.  It’s a smart contrast and a strong, relatable character choice that gets us in the head of protagonist Kate Kristopher, still reeling even years after the death of her father.  If only Shutter stuck with its character work, we’d  have a nearly-impeccable debut.  Sadly, as it expands, the cracks begin to show.

Shutter #1 doesn’t work without Leila Del Duca.  So much of what makes Shutter #1 an enjoyable debut is the sense of wonder and exploration that defines the book’s world.  As genre fans, we’re fairly cynical about such things, because we’ve seen it all before.  We’ve seen giant, expansive alien worlds, Earth-of-today with a supernatural twist, dragons in New York and aliens in taxis.  Del Duca’s greatest strength isn’t in designing something entirely new, but in crafting her art to give us a strong point of view.  Whether it is the open, earnest sense of wonder that defines the book’s opening pages or the closed-off, grim listlessness that rules its middle, Del Duca makes everything seem fresh – or jaded – by forcing us to see it through the eyes of our heroine.  It helps, of course, that she (and colorist Owen Gieni, who positively shines even amidst the book’s weakest segments) has a spectacular sense of design.

Unfortunately, after a strong, well-paced opening that is parlayed into a genre-shifting middle-segment, Keatinge’s script begins to slip.  The core concept behind the series – a girl famous for chronicling the wonder of a mysterious world slips into ennui in her mid-twenties – is truly fantastic.  But the series takes a sharp left turn near the end with a wild tonal shift that comes at the worst possible moment, and they just don’t have time to make that turn gel with what came before it.  Still, he works very well with Del Duca, crafting an introduction to the book that is at once stunningly intimate and wonderfully cinematic.  While I don’t love some of his plot decisions, I can’t deny the strength of his characterization of Kate Kristopher, young and old.  It’s that strength, both from Keatinge and from Del Duca’s art, that will have me coming back for more next month.

When Keatinge and Del Duca finally get to the plot in the book’s closing pages, Shutter #1 falters a bit.  Falters considerably, if I’m being honest.  But those first eight pages or so are sheer pulp perfection, a flawless introduction to a character and her world, and the book stays strong for the bulk of the issue.  If Keatinge and Del Duca can rediscover that initial energy (or dig deeper into the malaise of the present day) and refocus the book away from stereotypical adventure plotting, Shutter could become something truly special.  As is, it’s a mostly enjoyable first issue with an incredible amount of potential and a few flaws that could easily send the book careening down a disappointing path.

My Rating: 3.5 / 5

Shutter

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