Adventures of a Reluctant Explorer: Should You Be Reading ‘Shutter’?
When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.
With Fables having just wrapped up after 13 years of combining fantasy characters and creatures with a more-or-less real world setting, there's no better time to pick up Shutter. Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca's comic charts Kate Kristopher's reluctant journey through a world of ghost ninjas, fire-breathing Victorian robots and crocodiles in adorable bell-boy jackets, as she tries to uncover the mystery of her family's past – and save her own behind from the aforementioned creatures.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Kate comes from a long line of explorers, but after a brief flirtation with the family business, she's settled into a quiet life as a real estate photographer. That's where we start the comic, and after a few pages of this setup – creaking slowly upwards like the start of a rollercoaster – a gang of ghost ninjas come after Kate. Immediately, the plot plummets straight down at teeth-rattling speed. Now in its second year, the comic still hasn't slowed down.
Barely an issue goes by without a major revelation about Kate's past, or a narrow escape from a newly introduced enemy, or someone getting stabbed or blown up or losing a body part. Shutter is a rollicking adventure comic, but that's nicely tempered by the reluctance of its setting and characters.
The world around Kate doesn't especially care about her escapades, and its skeleton butlers and triceratops-riding lions are taken for granted by the population. The setting is coherent – thanks largely to del Duca's distinctive art – but it never feels purpose-built for someone to go on an adventure through.
Similarly, Kate isn't your standard machine-pressed adventure hero. By the age of 27, she's retired from that game and, when the story finds her, she just wants to be left alone. It risks robbing the book's hero of her agency, but if you've ever felt aimless or intimidated by life, you'll probably admire how Kate improvises her way through trouble.
WHO'S IT BY?
In the mid-00s, Joe Keatinge was co-editor of the Eisner Award-winning anthology Popgun. Since then, he's written Glory as part of Image's Extreme Comics reboot, Skybound's Tech Jacket, and his creator-owned series Hell Yeah.
Leila del Duca cut her teeth on webcomic Escape from Terra, and sharpened them on zombie Western Deadskins and Kickstarter-backed The Pantheon Project. Even glancing at Shutter, it's kind of remarkable that this is her first work for a major publisher.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?
Shutter is a restlessly formalist book, especially when the story starts to get a bit meta: A character solidifies from rough pencil sketch into fully-colored art, panel by panel. Kate is broken down into the component parts of her anatomy, each layer color-coded according to the CMYK spectrum. Backstory is filled in with a two-page pastiche of classic newspaper comic strips from Peanuts to Calvin 'n' Hobbes. These moments are reason enough to come back every month, and they stand out without ever slowing down the narrative.
Shutter's cast is also impressively diverse, without ever making that the focus of the story. Kate is a woman of color, as are many of her friends and nemeses, and characters are revealed to be gay or trans without the book treating it like a big deal. After all, if you can accept pumpkinhead creatures, but a trans woman is a sticking point, you probably don't deserve the fun on offer here.
WHO SHOULD READ IT?
Fans of anthropomorphic animals with a penchant for violence and bad language. Fans of Mike Carey and Peter Gross' The Unwritten, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, especially the bits where it ventures into the Blazing World. Fans of Lewis Carroll's literary nonsense, Fables, and crocodiles in adorable costumes.
WHERE CAN I READ IT?