Review by Ian Keogh
Spoilers in review
Kate Kristopher planned a world changing revolution. Was it naive? Was it arrogant? It came crashing down around her ears at the end of All Roads, or the conclusion to Act Two as Joe Keatinge had it. She’s withdrawn to New York living with the consequences of what happened, and is pretty well the angry and frustrated character we met in the opening Wanderlost.
Some matters have deliberately been concealed from both readers and primary cast, as Keatinge’s playing a clever game. We’ve been told early what some people are like, and it’s repeated, so it should come as no surprise when they’re exactly what we’ve been told, but it does. That’s nice writing. Then there’s someone else who’s been around since the start of Shutter who’s been on one hell of a transformational journey and transforms further in So Far Beyond, which is also nice writing. It also might be assumed that the cards have pretty well fallen, and it’s a headlong rush to the finish, but that’s not the case either. There’s plenty of time to look in on Kate and Alarm Cat’s relationship over the years, and how Huck grew up, and that’s clever writing as well.
Possibly too clever, however, is how Keatinge brings his primary plot to a close. Something has been holding humanity back, imprisoned and controlled, and it has to be freed for a new world to be created. It could be a metaphorical analogy for any number of political or personal problems, yet is somewhat generalised for that, so what’s left is a big balloon that goes floating off into space, and almost nothing changes. People get on with their lives, and in a couple of closing chapters we see how those lives are lived out, all self-determined, which may be the point. It’s charming, and because we’ve come to care about the cast, it’s crowd pleasing also, but anyone whose priority is the plot could well be disappointed.
Leila del Duca’s art has mirrored the twists of the plot, and it’s worth buying every Shutter graphic novel just to see what different styles she slips into. They’re not as pronounced here, but there’s still a variance between the open spaces in which Huck grew up and the confines of the Propsero’s preposterous quasi-Roman headquarters. There has to be more attention to character as well, because it’s not exclusive to the closing chapters that we see them at various ages, and there’s an interesting look about Kate toward the end. Del Duca can also be playful, echoing her opening work on Shutter with the early pages of So Far Beyond.
In case it’s not apparent, the series title originates with Kate’s photographic career. As that’s had no relevance it’s never been satisfying, and at worst could be considered contrived, but it’s now given a second meaning, one with greater relevance, which is pleasing. Shutter’s been a series of far more ups than downs, one planned as a single novel in three acts, and best read that way, and an ambitious story where almost everyone, for better or worse, has changed considerably even before we see their lives play out. A nagging feeling remains that Keatinge intended some message that’s never clearly conveyed, but Shutter reads just fine without bothering about it, and cries out for a complete edition.