Main characters in fantasy fiction are tricky. When bringing readers into a unkown setting with endless possibilities, they like to be grounded by someone relatable, someone who’s just as lost as they are at first so that their experience reading the book is similar to the protagonist’s experience living it. It just makes for an easier human connection. This obviously isn't a requirement (Game of Thrones gets along just fine without an unassuming farmboy with an epic destiny thrust upon him), but it definitely makes things a hell of a lot easier on both the writer and the reader.
Unfortunately, this often also makes the hero a tad bit boring, at least compared to all the other cool and interesting people he’s bumping into. Frodo’s got lot of heart and he’s nice guy and all, but he travels with a ranger destined to be a king, the baddest wizard who ever lived, and a ring-junkie with multiple personality disorder. We can all get invested in Luke’s journey to become a Jedi, but Lando, Chewie, or Han, scruffy-looking and Nerf-herding as he may be, are just more exciting to hang out with. They’ve got personality. They’ve got a little roughness to them, some edge.
And that’s my current problem with Shutter: while the world is rich, the characters are well-designed and funny, and the art is detailed and poppy, our main heroine just doesn’t have a lot to offer as of yet.
When we last left Kate Kristopher, a professional photographer and the daughter of a famous adventurer, she was in a bit of a bind. A visit to her father’s grave turns into a run for her life as she’s chased by a crew of ghost pirates led by an evil robot with a top hat (get used to descriptions like this; Shutter is comprised of characters and creatures that are so bizarre and creative you’d think we had a window directly looking into the sugar-infused brain of a sleeping eight year-old).
Kate is a definitely capable, leaping from dangerous situation to the next with a quip at the ready, but I had trouble investing in her because she was very reactive. Things happened to her, crazy, fantastical things like being encased in a beautiful crystal prison (functioning a lot like carbonite, which fits nicely with my Star Wars analogy earlier) and fighting off a pack of tommy gun-toting lions with a cannon bigger than her torso, but she never takes the initiative. However, with only two issues under their belt, writer Joe Keatinge and artist Leila Del Duca may, and in all probability are, playing their cards close to the chest.
The most interesting thing about Kate, the thing that may eventually change my mind about her character, is her relationship with her father, who’s basically Indiana mixed with a little bit of Flash Gordon. Their relationship has so far been very complex and real, and I’d love to see more of them in the future.
Leila Del Duca’s art here is a perfect fit for the story, depicting larger-than-life action set-pieces just as easy as quieter, more intimate moments between father and daughter. There’s a moment when Kate leaps from a floating battle-city to a flying police saucer with more saucers spinning-out, smoking and crashing in the fore and backgrounds, a chaos that is rendered with such clarity that I just had to take a moment to sit back and marvel. Owen Gienei’s colors make everything pop in just the right way.
While I expressed problems with Kate, there’s more keeping me with Shutter than keeping me away. The mystery of Kate’s siblings is looking really intriguing, and the character designs alone are worth a look. But I’ll also keep reading to see if Kate fulfills her potential and becomes the character we want her to be.