While I was initially unsure why “Shrugged” was carrying the qualifier of “Volume 2” on the cover of this latest offering in Aspen Comics’ “10 for 10” promotion, I quickly discovered that this isn’t the most approachable of the offerings Aspen has put forth through this event. Granted, this is only the second in the series of ten new offerings from Aspen, but “Legend of the Shadow Clan” was a little more receptive to new readers than this story from writer Frank Mastromauro and artists Jonathan Marks and Micah Gunnell.
Since this initiative should be designed to win new fans through an affordable promotion, I presumed I knew everything I needed to know before I cracked the cover. Yes, a great deal of the relationship between human host Theo and his guiding voices Ange (from Elysia) and Devonshire (from Nefario) can be gleaned from “Shrugged Volume 2” #1, but there are moments of absurdity and incongruity that pop up without even the slightest explanation. One of those moments (Theo meeting his lab partner, Lou) brings in some other demons/gremlins/whatever it is that Dev is, but offers absolutely no explanation or context for their appearance. Mastromauro makes the scene lighthearted enough to ease the reader through, but it gave me a moment’s pause. On the topic of lightheartedness, Dev and Ange are the embodiment of the fictional trope of devil and angel advisors sitting on the shoulders of a person. Their interplay is fun and sassy and truly drives the story.
Beth Sotelo’s vibrant and intense colors nicely fill the art of Jonathan Marks and Micah Gunnell, combining quite wonderfully with the lettering provided by Josh Reed. The four visual creators of “Shrugged Volume 2” #1 mesh nicely to provide a complete panel-to-panel experience. Marks’ drawing is prone to intermittent bursts of excessive detail that muddies up the storytelling a bit. That is most prominent in the final scene, which leads to bad things, but how the bad things manifest is most unclear. Tag on some odd perspective choices and the artwork of the book has its work cut out for it. Marks, Gunnell, Sotelo and Reed are a nice team with loads of talent, but a bit more polish needs to be applied to bring out their best work. I do like the flourishes and panel border choices the team employs, as little choices like that really propel a comic book’s visual appeal.
Overall, “Shrugged Volume 2” #1 is fun, but not compelling. None of the characters hooked me and the story itself didn’t offer enough of a threat to bring me screaming back for issue #2. That said, for a buck this wasn’t a horrible story, in fact it was actually quite enjoyable. It just isn’t a particularly memorable one. Aspen is doing well with their choices and between this and “Legend of the Shadow Clan” provides a nice range of subject matter and adventure options that shatter the preconceived notion of cheesecake good girl comic books that many readers associate with the publisher of “Fathom” and “Soulfire.”