Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Shutter is a very hard book to describe to people, and I should know.  I've been trying to describe it to people I know ever since I picked up the first volume about nine months ago, and I'm still reduced to just throwing the book at people and shouting, "HEY, READ THIS."

It's a great way for me to behave like a complete hipster when it comes to comic books.  "Oh, yes, I could read the MAINSTREAM stuff like Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman, but it's all been done to death.  I want the more independent stuff."  There are, however, two problems with my doing that.

One, Shutter is printed by Image, which may not be a multimedia juggernaut like either of the Big Two, but is hardly "independent."  Second, mainstream books really are kinda lame these days.  After having some characters be around for some 80 or so years, I really find it difficult to care what Batman or Spider-Man are up to, because I know there's no permanent consequences any more.  Characters can be killed off, changes can be made, but these characters will still be around next year, or the year after that, or the decade after that.

This brings us back around to Shutter, in that it's a book where you genuinely feel like any character can be put in serious danger at any time and won't, necessarily, come out of it unscathed, if they come out of it at all.

The main character of Shutter is Kate Kristopher, the last of a bloodline of explorers and adventurers who deal with everything from battling crocodiles dressed in bellhop costumes to casual trips to the moon to celebrate a child's birthday. Her father was quite possibly the greatest adventurer the world had ever known, but Kate has put it all behind her to become a real estate photographer leading a quiet life.

Sure, sometimes people recognize her, and a few geek out over her (it would be akin to, say, Jennifer Lawrence quitting show business and taking up work as a baker), she mostly leads a quiet life... until a bunch of ghost ninjas, animal assassins, and fire-breathing steampunk robots show up to attack her.  Finding herself on the run, Kate has to face the fact that her father's legacies might not let her simply live the quiet life she wanted, but also that perhaps her family isn't what she originally thought it was.

Every chapter of the book is visually and storytellingly (that's totally a word now) breathtaking.  Giant dragons, massive cities, exotic dream worlds, and so much more are beautifully drawn on the page, pulling you in.  Back story is created through homages to classic comic strips like Little Nemo In Slumberland, Calvin and Hobbes, and Peanuts.  Each character is visually distinct and behaves as its own entity, not just a simple background character.

It's interesting, though, that for the most part nobody else in the world really cares what's going on with Kate.  The world is filled with wonders, with ancient gods returning to the cultures that once believed in them and flying people being an everyday occurrence.  Yes, Kate's life is in danger, but until this is, at its core, a personal journey for her, not a "the world is at stake" story (though it might well be, depending on where certain plot threads go).

It's also pretty violent, so don't pick it up for a kid who really likes your old VHS copy of The Rocketeer, it's not that kind of pulp adventure.

Pictured: Not the most awesome thing that happens in this comic book.  Seriously.

It is, however, some of the most fun I've had reading and rereading a comic book in a very long time.  It's reminiscent of the best works of Alan Moore, particularly from works of his like Top Ten where even the biggest superhero world can still be made out of smaller, more personal stories, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen where an eclectic cast has to resolve matters in a world that most people simply aren't aware of..

For people who don't know comics, being compared to "some of Alan Moore's best work" is a really high praise.  Provided the comparison is positive, I mean.

Anyway, words just really don't do this book justice unless I start getting into metaphysical matters, deconstruct the entire genre, and otherwise spoil what's a completely enjoyable experience from start to- well, to now, I guess.  It's not finished yet, but the second volume just came out not too long ago.  The trades can be picked up from your local bookshop, or from Amazon, but I'm not going to link those because I don't get any kind of cut of that sweet, sweet Amazon money until I completely sell out and do ads.

But seriously, read this book.  It's great.  Joe Keatinge, Leila Del Duca, Owen Gieni, and Ed Brisson put together a visually amazing title that gives the entire comics industry a much needed dose of "breaking from the ordinary" and keeps me excited about what happens in this hobby.  It's probably one of my favorites of, say, the last ten years.

Plus, I really, really want a sentient talking cat clock.

No comments: