Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artist: Leila Del Luca
Colorist: Owen Gieni
Letterer: Ed Brisson
Published by Image Comics
Joe Keatinge’s work frequently deals with characters who have become cynical about the wonder that surrounds them, and while the characters in his comics are dealing with life-or-death stakes, they’re usually also dealing with the need to recapture that wonder. Shutter, a new Image series by Keatinge and Leila Del Luca, is no different, focusing as it does on Kate Kristopher, a young adventurer from a long line of adventurers who blatantly states “life got pretty boring” right before it gets, well, a little less boring. Keatinge has lately been most visible at Marvel, where he has tackled ailing characters like Morbius the Living Vampire for the publisher, and it’s easy to read Kate’s frustrations with her inactive writing career as a commentary on Keatinge’s for hire projects, which have been good but haven’t quite had the heart and passion of his best creator owned work. Shutter serves a dual role in its first issue as an introduction to Kate’s need to be reinvigorated by her world and as a reintroduction to an invigorated Keatinge.
It probably isn’t a coincidence that right off the bat, Shutter feels like the most alive Keatinge work since Hell Yeah, which had a similar structure in its first issue and also dealt with lethal but exciting disruptions. Del Luca truly brings life to Keatinge’s concepts, and if I was in Keatinge’s shoes, there’s no doubt that Luca’s art would have reignited my sense of wonder and thrill at the potential of comics, too. The world of Shutter is full of visual delights, each panel provoking myriad questions, from the minotaur on his morning commute alongside Kate to the Kirby-esque gods that appear around some ancient Moroccan monoliths and proclaim they’re going to have a race. Del Luca’s true skill isn’t in these creations, though, but the way she’s able to make them appear wonderful while also granting them a normalcy that makes it easy to understand why these figures have become boring, everyday people to Kate. The subtle statement Keatinge and Del Luca appear to make is that adventuring loses its edge when you’ve brought all the wonder and excitement to the regular world.
There are other reasons why Kate is so disenchanted, though, and they become clear towards the end of the issue, providing an element of tragedy to further connect us to Kate’s state of mind. Between Shutter and the similarly themed Starlight as well as Black Science, Image has gained a monopoly of sorts on stories about adventurers who have lost their edge. But where Starlight and Black Science are somewhat more traditional in presentation and style, Del Luca and letterer Ed Brisson make interesting in choices in panel layout and text presentation. Brisson in particular has long been Keatinge’s secret weapon of choice, and the work he does at the beginning of the issue, where he creates a cinematic title sequence to appear within the art, makes the bold, playful nature of Shutter especially clear. Luca and her colorist Owen Gieni are similarly playful with spatial awareness in the comic, as Gieni uses a dark, flat palette to juxtapose the almost 3D like depth Luca infuses the comic with. Luca rightfully gushed about Gieni’s work in a recent interview, singling out the way his use of multiple palettes makes it easy for the reader to pick up on shifts in location and time periods, and the continued collaboration between these two will undoubtedly only grow better.
In that same interview, Luca also mentioned how she felt she has been able to provide better artwork than she has before because of how much she cares about this project. Keatinge has always excelled as a curator and in Shutter he has put together an impeccable team that have enabled the comic to be a great debut that will likely only get better as we learn more about Kate Kristopher and her enchanting world. – NH
Shotgun Wedding #2
Writer: William Harms
Artist: Edward Pun
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Publisher: Image Comics
They say revenge is a sickness. It twists and warps the mind. It perverts logic. Someone who craves revenge wants that person to not only suffer, but suffer exponentially. Shotgun Wedding #1 planted the seeds of sickness into its lead character Chloe, then #2 watered them with miracle grow. William Harms hits most of the right notes with issue #2 while managing to avoid the stereotype landmine field for the most part. Edward Pun’s art thrives in the heavily shadowed world of black and white, adding excellent flow to the action scenes while managing to balance the slower pacing when the action falls away.
Harms continues to live simultaneously in the past and present during issue #2. He’s building the relationship he deconstructed in issue #1. Chloe and Mike courted each other in dangerous circumstances and he builds a bit of sympathy for Mike in this issue after leaving him in the dirt in the first issue. Harms does a good job of keeping any character from feeling like a real hero. Sure, they’re both killers and Chloe wants Mike to suffer for leaving her at the altar, but once you learn what she gave up, you begin to understand why she is so driven to go after him. Harms draws on several genre stereotypes for the story, but not to a point where it’s detremental. There isn’t much inventiveness in the way of gear or weaponry and the espionage dynamics of the story are the kind you’ve read countless times, but this is more a tell of love and revenge than a pure spy vs. spy story. That isn’t a bad thing and it’ll be interesting to see the turn Harms takes in the path ahead. In the long run it may be more Shakespearean than Fleming.
It’s hard to tell a story like Shotgun Wedding without drawing some similarities to Tarantino’s Kill Bill series. There’s the symbolism of the abandoned bride, the thirst for revenge, and teams of secret assassins across the book. There is even a loose reference to John Wayne and America’s cowboy attitude. For the most part that is where the similarities stop. Mike and Chloe each inhabit characteristics of Bill and Beatrix but that is as far as they go. It seems fitting in a black and white book that both characters operate their lives in various shades of grey.
Edward Pun’s art maybe my favorite thing about the book. Done digitally and in black and white, Pun manages to give the comic a live action movie feel. I love that this book is black and white. I feel that coloring Pun’s style takes away from it somewhat, the cover is a good example of that. Once more, he manages to keep the action and panels from being confusing, something that can happen in black and white comics. It’s not all perfect, there are some minor rough spots here and there when the action slows down, but overall the art is outstanding. It’s a modern take on classic spy stories and it’s something I might expect to find in an Ed Brubaker book.
As a one-two punch of an opening combo, #1 is the jab and #2 is the haymaker right hook that breaks your jaw and leaves your teeth strewn upon the mat while you lie on your face wondering what the tooth-fairy pays for adult teeth. I’m not the biggest spy story fan in the world but William Harms and Edward Pun have me psyched up for this series and I’m eagerly awaiting #3. – DT
Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1
Written and Drawn by: Kaare Kyle Andrews
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
One constantly recurring question in comics is whether a story can still succeed if the writing is bad but the art is great and vice versa. I’ve typically found that great art can save a mediocre story but not the other way around, but Kaare Kyle Andrews’ Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1 has done a lot to test my faith in that belief.
A reboot of sorts for Iron Fist, this debut issue economically sets up Danny Rand’s history and origin as well as what’s plaguing him currently. Andrews’ does an admirable job explaining Rand’s weird biography, utilizing the format of a casual interview to explore the character and his motives, and it’s to his credit that what is basically a catch-up issue looks as excellent as it does. But Andrews stumbles when it comes to properly illustrating the appeal of Iron Fist.
Iron Fist has long been a second stringer in the Marvel U, a holdover from a time when Marvel had an abundance of successful martial arts-oriented characters as well as a time when Iron Fist served as the cocky foil to Luke Cage’s more stoic, street smart Power Man in the buddy action stories of Heroes for Hire. Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction did wonders with Rand in The Immortal Iron Fist, which offered a sci-fi fantasy tinged alt-history twist on the character and featured stunning art by Travel Foreman and David Aja, which leaves some huge shoes for Andrews to fill. That series never shied away from the irritable cockiness of Rand, or the poor decision making that serves as his true archnemesis, but Andrews leans a little too heavy on that aspect of Rand and presents him as a fundamentally despicable character in this first issue.
Rand is immediately presented as an asshole who doesn’t really care about the people who are interested in him, and is self-deprecating about that aspect of his personality. On its own, that treatment of such a complicated character wouldn’t necessarily ruin a good story, but Andrews can’t quite make that compatible with the more tragic elements of Rand’s past, specifically the intense, complex relationship he had with his father. Likewise, Rand’s troubling apathy towards a hook-up he’s supposed to be saving but can’t remember the name of is less comedic than it is distasteful and all the stakes that should be raised when Rand must save her from undead ninjas is deflated.
Still, Andrews’ artwork in this issue is amongst his best, skewing towards gritty and handmade rather than the more digitized aesthetic he brought to Spider-Man: Reign. That alterna-Spider-Man story similarly suffered from poor characterization, but at least this time out Andrews’ art is stunning, as he utilizes disjointed panel structures and artful lettering to create a truly unique superhero visual that shifts between aesthetics as the story itself shifts between locations and times. You can trace the influence of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli throughout the issue, as well as Steve Ditko and other early Marvel pioneers, but Andrews’ cinematic background provides the work with a startling clarity as he mixes action cuts and more deliberately paced breakdowns. This may be a clumsy first outing, but if Andrews can sustain this level of artistry and fix his handle on Rand as a character, this could still grow into a truly groundbreaking Iron Fist story. – NH
Writers: Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Artist: Brooke Allen
Colorist: Maarta Laiho
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Lately, creators like Faith Erin Hicks, Gail Simone, Kelly Sue Deconnick, and countless others are starting to help the mainstream comicbook industry shift itself into more diverse territory. Publishers are starting to really listen to women– Kelly Sue is writing a female lead solo superhero series, Captain Marvel, that is not only surviving, it’s thriving and she’s got a great creator owned series with Pretty Deadly and G. Willow Wilson is busy captivating audiences with her take on Ms. Marvel, which is getting rave critical reviews. And now there’s Lumberjanes, a fun comic that carries the spirit of Power Puff Girls and feels like a natural evolutionary spin off of Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time series that debuts this week after a tremendous amount of buzz online.
The story revolves around five girls rooming together at an all girls camp. This might not be worth telling if it were about five girls who stayed in their cabin and behaved. But we’re introduced to the team as they’re wandering late at night in the woods. Pretty standard stuff, right up until they all strike action poses and are attacked by three eyed foxes. Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis are working in the middle ground between a realistic comic about kids in a summer camp and Adventure Time zaniness. The Adventure Time zaniness probably has something to do with Co-Creator and Adventure Time editor Shannon Watters being involved with the book. Between shouts of “Friendship to the Max!” and Little Red Riding Hood inspired battle plans, it is clear that they have a voice and a world they are eagerly wanting to introduce us to. The world of Lumberjanes feels a lot more secret, a world within a world if you will. The girls can’t explain what they’ve seen but they don’t seem completely shocked by it either. It’s a world where magic may not be in the public eye but discovering it exists isn’t some world shattering event. The dialogue is swift and fun, all ages fun. This is definitely a comic I would send my niece to read.
The artistic team of Brooke Allen and Maarta Laiho really bring this world to life. It feels like a happy blend of Saturday morning cartoons and early child storybooks. Part of that has to do with the fluid motion of Allen’s edges. Laiho helps define that fluidity not with bright colors but with a more muted color palette you would find in children’s books. This works wonders for the story, the artists telling us visually that this will be something altogether different yet familiar. The characters themselves exemplify the differences between every individual. No a single character looks the same in this issue, and it’s awesome.
Lumberjanes #1 is a lot of fun to read and while the humor may fall on the deaf ears of the older generation, it is definitely worth a buy. Oh, and there is an awesome playlist compiled by the team at the end of the issue and we took the liberty of compiling it on Spotify so you don’t have to! -DT