There was a fair amount of hype surrounding Shutter from the moment Image announced it at their expo earlier this year. Comparisons to characters like Indiana Jones tends to create a bit of buzz no matter what the end product might look like. But I wasn’t the only person who was a little bit hesitant when discussing this book. When fellow Capeless Crusader Thom Obarski and I discussed it on our Image Expo episode of Geek Girls, Nerd Boys, the usually even-toned Thom was quick to raise an eyebrow. Having said that, looking back, I personally would like to recant my reluctance. I can admit when I am wrong. “Shutter #1” not only exceeded my expectations, it quickly became one of the two biggest stand-out books of the first quarter of 2014. When I say that the hype is real, believe me. The hype is real. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some issues that must also be addressed.
When telling a successful adventure tale, an element that never seems to lack is the sense of child-like wonder. Brave new worlds and unseen sights tend to bring that out in a person, no matter the age. The first eight pages of this book has it in spades. From the surface of the moon, we meet Kate Kristopher and her father in a moment of celebration. Interspersed with that scene is a flashback in her father’s office that explains their rich family history of exploration and adventure. The juxtaposition works well, as the highly detailed and textured places could not be more different. It is one heck of a way to celebrate, but when you’re the world’s foremost explorer, that is how you bond with your daughter. The beginning on a whole plays like the opening credits sequence of a film more than a comic book and it is extremely effective in establishing the deep, spirited relationship that this duo has. Both scenes might have been just as effective on their own, but when mixed together the potency is increased by the time you get to the title’s two-page spread.
It is at this point when you can not help but be totally enveloped in the fully realized world that artist Leila Del Duca and colorist Owen Gieni have created. Be it in space, the confines of grown-up Kate’s sad apartment or the urban sprawl of a futuristic New York City, there isn’t a single moment you do not believe what you’re seeing. The moments in the city itself are so finely detailed from the architectural elements, the (literally) Bull-headed businessmen on the subway, to the cars driving down the street, it is all very, very impressive. Also, it must be said that Ed Brisson’s lettering work is top-notch. He fits a great deal of dialogue into relatively small spaces in an issue that is very dialogue heavy.
As far as the plot of the book, all we know after the entire twenty-two pages of the first issue is essentially the same information from the previews. The daughter of a great explorer gave up her life of adventure to become a normal person, whatever that means. Sadly, things just aren’t working out that way. Her father has passed away and she is now twenty-seven with few prospects on the horizon. She just isn’t the same without her dad around and it is a heartbreaking dynamic that Joe Keatinge delivers in a deftly humanizing way. You can see that even though she is a grown woman, at heart she is still the seven-year old girl that walked on the moon with her dad. Even though I’ve never known anyone to actually speak at someone’s grave, and I’m pretty sure it only happens in books, TV, and movies it is very effective for empathizing with Kate and it aids in the last bit of required exposition.
At page eighteen, however, things take a very hard and very abrupt left turn. Still speaking in car metaphors, it is a hard left turn that could send many drivers barreling end-over-end over the guard rail. But in the hands of this creative team, things careen but never go off course. Instead, the momentum only picks up and accelerates into the apex. Without spoiling much (it was in the previews so technically I am not spoiling anything) it goes from Kate being chased by ghost ninjas—yes, you read that right: GHOST NINJAS!—to an even more fantastical sequence that details many of her past exploits in just four panels. Saying anything else would be a spoiler, though, so I will just say that you’ll need to pick up the book and see what I’m talking about to really understand how awesome this sequence of events is. It certainly wasn’t one that I saw coming.
Once the primary story finishes, we are given nine pages of additional content. Namely, a bonus comic by Ryan Alexander-Tanner and colored by Catherine Peach, who passed away earlier this year. Each one is enjoyable, but I must say that at cover price of $3.50 and pre-release press that this book came with, I was expecting more of the primary narrative than the nine pages of extra stuff. I hate to sound ungrateful but it seems like a misstep, right at the end of a great book.
Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca have managed to create the second new stand-out book from Image Comics that I’ve seen this year, with Starlight being the first. All four people on the creative team succeeded in delivering an astonishing new world that centers on an endearing and captivating main character. Even though very little actually happens for the first several pages in terms of story, the hard left turn at the end more than makes up for any lag in the action. As I said before though, the shortness, particularly in the first issue of a comic book is hard to ignore. Of course you want to leave the readers wanting more. A cliffhanger is paramount at the end of a good first issue. But, don’t leaving me literally wishing you had added more to the book before publishing it. There is a big difference.
“Shutter #1” earns a healthy but lean 8.5/10