Joe Keatinge and Leila del Duca begin “Shutter” #4 with a wonderful sepia-toned three-page prologue. It begins with folktale predictability but ends with a shock of recognition. The transition from the end of the prologue to the fourth page feels magical.
Harrington was first revealed at the end of the last issue. He seemed to be merely a variation on the standard butler, and his literally skeletal appearance just seemed to be another element of Kate’s gothic childhood home. Though his Halloween-ish appearance in the last page of “Shutter” #3 was a small shock due to del Duca’s framing, it wasn’t especially notable, since so many other elements of Kate’s world are fantastical. Thus, Keatinge’s “Just So” story that so neatly explains Harrington’s life is a pleasure partly because it’s such a surprise.
It reads like a cross between a fable and the opening sequence of the Pixar animated film “Up.” There’s a swiftness of fate, as well as a beautifully executed compression of the entire lifetime up until now. Even better, Harrington’s ensuing conversation with Kate reveal another surprise. Out of forced servitude, he has found a newer, perhaps better life. Isolated as a regular boy and man, with the Kristophers, he found a place to belong to in society and people to love. The pathos and dignity of his story is moving.
The rest of “Shutter” #4 back in the present day doesn’t have the same punch as the opening, but it’s the dialogue and art are still strong. Except for the last page, little happens to advance Kate’s or the reader’s understanding of the family secrets. “Shutter” #4 does provide a lot more detail about Kate’s past, but still leaves the biggest questions unanswered. The revelations make Kate’s father an even greater mystery and enlarge his legendary quality. The General’s reminiscences are a bit clunky as a plot device, and the Kate’s reaction to the mention of her mother is a frustrating teaser.
Keating also catches up with Elkland, who is trying to help Shaw get out of his contract to kill Kate. In another twist, Mikey, platypus and information broker, displays an unexpected viciousness. Despite some movement on all fronts, the pacing feels a little slow, since “Shutter” is in the fourth issue and yet the central catalyst – why Kate must take up the family mantle again – has yet to be revealed.
Leila del Duca’s art continues to worth the price of the comic by itself. She draws characters at different ages well, and all the connective tissue via body language, facial expressions, transitions, etc. are all sound. The real standout is her visual imagination. The extremely rich amount of detail in her backgrounds does so much for the worldbuilding. Every panel is worth rereading, but doesn’t make immediate demands. Del Duca’s approach is at once casual and carnival-like. Despite the rapid world-building, her creations aren’t presented as main focus of the reader’s attention. Keatinge and del Duca don’t overexplain or oversell the world, and this matter-of-fact attitude makes the world they build more accessible. The reader experiences the world like a tourist exploring side streets instead of by guided tour.
“Shutter” #4 is a little uneven, but the gemlike opening and del Duca’s art are more than enough to outweigh the slow pacing.