Review by Ian Keogh
Spoilers in review
Eric Heisserer has a nice line of deception leading into Shaper, which is the story of Spry, brought up in an orphanage at a time when Earth has integrated into the wider universe under the control of the Caliphate led by Victus, a man who it’s said can see ten steps into the future. Despite his power and position he fears a prophecy that a race called the Shapers will end his reign, so his brutal enforcers are spread far and wide to hunt them down. Spry grows up idolising these enforcers until the day his world erupts.
The Shapers are shape changers, extraordinarily long lived, almost eternal in human terms, enabling them to hide away until their enemy’s civilisation declines. That’s one of a few wrinkles Heisserer adds to a plot that’s basically Sith hunting down Jedi, or, if you want biblical, Herod killing the innocents. Others are the truth behind the prophecy Victus fears, and Spry collecting game cards featuring assorted characters he later meets, for better or worse. Original artist Felipe Massafera has a way with design concepts that’s nicely exploited, as he occasionally has to create two characters with the same name, never mind the assorted alien bystanders occupying crowd scenes and the forms the Shapers take. Having put all the hard work into that however, he only draws the opening chapter, with the slightly more precise art of Ace Continuado occupying the remainder of the book. That’s a shame, because Massafera is the better artist, more imaginative and with a cohesive sense of visual characterisation.
It’ll probably come as no surprise that Heisserer ends the opening chapter with the revelation that Spry is himself a Shaper, and with the further revelation that much of what he’s taken for granted is false, his quest begins. It’s a great adventure, and a lot of fun as long as there’s no significant thought applied to the plot. Start considering what shape changers should be capable of, and things start to fall apart slightly, particularly with the disclosure that the inhibitor collars Victus slips on Shapers aren’t entirely foolproof. The ending also seems rushed, perhaps the result of a curtailed serialisation, and surely someone could have stopped Heisserer refereincing a plot device known to millions around the world from The Empire Strikes Back.
There’s the basis of something good about Shaper, but it needed it needed more thought applied to iron out the wrinkles. What’s left is fun, but unmemorable.