Been another big week for me outside of the blog. I had reviews of Lumberjanes and Pretty Deadly published at The Rainbow Hub and one of Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl published at PopOptiq. The latter was commended by Kieron Gillen on Twitter for my use of Scott Pilgrim puns, so… y’know… life goals I didn’t know I had achieved.
We’re gonna keep the comics train rolling this week. Let’s talk about Shutter.
When talking about the resurgence of Image Comics over the past few years, there are works that get brought up over and over again. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s uproarious and heartfelt comedy Sex Criminals, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ sci-fi masterpiece Saga, Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s gloriously hip and heartbreaking The Wicked + The Divine, Kelly Sue Deconnick and Valentine De Landro’s awe-and-anger-inspiring Bitch Planet, and Kurtis Wiebe and Tess Fowler’s low-brow and high-adventure hijinks in Rat Queens, to name a few. These works are praised constantly, and for good reason.
Still, there’s always a few books I feel get left out and it makes me sad that they do. Books like Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s Lazarus, Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder’s Rocket Girl, Becky Cloonan and Andy Bellanger’s Southern Cross, and Gillen and McKelvie’s Phonogram, to name a few.
Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca’s Shutter seems to be in the latter category, and that’s a damn shame.
I initially came across Shutter in my Comixology browsing. The first issue was available for free during the holidays or something like that, so I gave it a look.
It was weird. Not weird. Weird. But I read plenty of weird books, so I was willing to give it a shot once my LCS got the first trade in.
Reading that first trade really made me love it and see the series for what it is. If Saga is Image’s Star Wars, Shutter is its Indiana Jones. The story is about a former adventurer named Kate Kristopher, who has been reeling from the death of her father ten years prior. Slowly, she’s been building a new life in a world similar yet very different from our own as a real estate photographer. However, she gets thrown back into the game when she finds out the fact she was not an only child like her father told her and that she has siblings that are trying to kill her. Well, all except 8-year-old Chris. Yeah, that certain fact of her dad being dead longer than Little Chris has been alive certainly throws Kate for a loop.
The story of the first arc is fairly straightforward if you’re familiar with the tropes in Western media. Someone retires from their previous life due to traumatic circumstances, but gets dragged back into it when something terrible happens and they’re the only ones who can get to the bottom of it. Off the top of my head, that’s the plot for the Jessica Jones series that just came out on Netflix and Pacific Rim. Still, it’s not the tropes you use, it’s how you use them, and Keatinge and Del Duca create a dynamic universe with fun and interesting characters populating it. Plus, having a lead character who admits to not having her shit together is always someone I can root for.
Of course, when the second arc begins with a dragon blowing the head off of one of my favorite characters in the first arc, I knew that with the introductions out of the way, Shutter was nowhere in the proximity of fucking around anymore.
Keatinge and Del Duca talked about this some at New York Comic Con is that a lot of the series deals with Kate’s limited worldview suddenly expanding and taking on new forms. That could also be said of the series as it transitioned from “Wanderlost” to “The Way of the World.” The book wasn’t just a surface returning adventurer story anymore. It was deep mystery wrapped in experimentation. I haven’t read the infamous 15th issue yet that Keatinge described as Kate “tripping balls,” but I feel like I got a taste of that as Kate entered a dreamscape, her brain colliding together and the art taking strange forms as she pulled herself together.
If you only know of Del Duca’s work from her issue of The Wicked + The Divine, you’re missing out on some prime strangeness that she only just scratched the surface on. WicDiv 16 had ketchup Baphomet, Shutter has dragons, punk rock jackal-people, secret societies dressed in frightening blood red, and giant great uncles made of crystal, to name a few.
Even with all this strangeness happening, the fact that it keeps to the core theme of Kate trying to make her life hers brings a certain joy to my perpetually frustrated 20-something heart. Keatinge’s voice for Kate is strong and resonant, especially when she starts telling everyone that she’s doing things on her terms. It may not lead to the best decisions, but those decisions are hers.
Keatinge and Del Duca gave me #13 when I bought volume 2 at NYCC and I’m not certain if that’s the best or worst thing they could have done. I want to read more of it now, dammit! Still, I think I can wait another month plus for the next trade.