Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca begin “Shutter” #7 with a scene between Kate’s editor and Alain. The double-paged spread with the editor’s enraged yell of “Where is Kate Kristopher?” has an iconic feel to it, creating an echo of Carmen Sandiego and other world-travelling adventurers. This sideways opening works well to keep the reader up to date about what Kate left behind in her old life, and it’s short enough that it doesn’t squander suspense about Kate and Chris fight with a giant dragon.
The visual inventiveness of “Shutter” is a delight and a surprise every issue, and “Shutter” #7 is no exception. The fight scene with the dragon is spectacular. Del Duca’s panel compositions are balanced and full of visual tension, and the smaller touches like Alarm Cat’s agitated posture are spot-on as well. Del Duca’s facial expressions are superb, especially for the cowering from Kate’s big sister’s crocodile henchman. The mere fact that Del Duca can draw a crocodile henchman that looks so thuggish and funny is a huge plus for “Shutter.” Gieni’s colors enhance Del Duca’s details. His work on the dragon is particularly subtle in its blend of pale browns and greens. The bright cool green he chooses for the fields of Cambodia is also a great choice that amplifies the emotional effect of Del Duca’s double-page spread. “Shutter” is worth reading just for its visual surprises and pleasures.
The plot and script by Keatinge are more uneven, though. The full introduction of the older sister after sneak peeks in earlier issues is an attention-grabber, and the update on Ekland and Shaw’s situation after their disastrous fight with Kate is no snore, either. “Shutter” never lacks for interesting developments, but despite the near-constant staccato of new events, the story is actually moving slowly in terms of Kate’s status in the shape of the story. If this was a movie or a book, it would still be early in the rising action. That wouldn’t be a problem really, except that Kate’s lack of progress also ties into the biggest weakness of “Shutter”: the lack of emotional depth and Kate’s characterization.
Kate’s old home and family is like an onion of secrets. It’s clear as each revelation is peeled away that Keatinge’s got a larger plan worked out at the core. Nevertheless, Kate and the readers are so in the dark that it slows down the pacing, especially since Kate has failed to seize control of any situation. Kate’s lack of information limits her options and narrows the range of her reactions and her agency in her own story. It’s frustrating that Kate hasn’t been able trust anyone but Chris or execute any power plays more subtle than running away or reactive violence. Despite her physical prowness, Kate’s not very interesting yet. It’s her context that is fascinating, not her character.
Minor characters like Alarm Cat or Ekland and her Triceratops, who are all two-dimensional types, have more charm than Kate due to Keatinge’s distinctive dialogue for them and Del Duca’s artwork. It’s an odd setup that readers have been given more reason to care about a funny sidekick robot and a brutal antagonist than the main character. Even Harrington the skeleton butler is better fleshed out. In her dialogue and in her appearance, Kate Kristopher is relatively bland compared to, well, everyone else in her world. That may be intentional on Keatinge’s part, to make Kate easier to identify with, but it’s also a handicap to the reader being more invested in her fate.
The direction or flow of the story needs to shift into another gear soon for Kate’s journey to have a more meaningful arc, but “Shutter” #7 is worth picking up for dialogue and especially the artwork.