In Issue #3, “Shutter” keeps flying through its surrealist universe with such energy and imagination that I still don’t mind flying blind. It’s true that I’ve got almost zero idea what the bigger issues are outside of Kate’s moment-to-moment experiences, but the story is so grounded in narrative and emotional immediacy that I can’t bring myself to mind. Leila del Duca’s art and Joe Keatinge’s script can keep on entertaining me without answers — for now.
It’s strange that I so enjoy a book that keeps this close to Kate, because she’s easily the least interesting character here. Keatinge and del Duca create a world that is calmly and coolly insane, from skeleton butlers and salamander assassins to katana-spinning foxes on triceratops, and Kate just sort of moves through the madness. They develop her backstory with glimpses into an unorthodox childhood and a literary career, but in the present she remains something of a cipher. She seems like she was once someone who did interesting things, and is now someone to whom interesting things happen.
In general, the past bears most of the weight in “Shutter.” Keatinge still hasn’t revealed why Kate is so convinced her siblings are evil — or even how many of them she has — but he does sketch out the history of her friendship with Alain. The combination of a slowly revealed, very important past with such a frenetic, forward-driving present could be a real mess, but somehow the confusion draws me in. This isn’t to say that I completely understand what “Shutter” is about, or what it’s trying to accomplish. Is this an adventure story? An introspective journey for Kate? I couldn’t tell you. At the moment, I’m just along for the ride. The atmosphere keeps me reading.
None of that atmosphere would be possible, however, without del Duca and Gieni’s art. Del Duca’s fantastic imagination is grounded by gritty pencils and tempered by Gieni’s direct, realistic colors so that none of this wonderfully wackadoodle world ever feels like parody or escapist fable. It’s exaggerated and absurdist, but it feels inhabited despite that. Del Duca takes her time with the panels as if this were set in the modern world, and all the scene-setting could be done with clean establishing shots; she spends an entire page just on Kate’s quiet train ride, with shots of Kate reading and the passing countryside, as if Kate were taking the Amtrak to Kansas. Keatinge’s script also commits to this no-comment approach; none of the characters react with shock to any of the more outlandish elements, and there’s no attempt to apologize for or grin at the fantastical world this team has created. It simply is, sans explanation. There aren’t many creative teams with the sheer confidence required to introduce a gangster lion as a character and not feel the need to tell me why, but this is one of them.
“Shutter” continues to grow with each issue, both from the perspective of experimentation — this month’s Richard-Scarry-does-crime-fiction opening — and character development. I’m always curious to see what it will do next.