Review by Frank Plowright
When serialised as comic Shuddertown was planned to run five chapters, but only four were published. Never mind, as this is a hardback presentation collecting the series the ending will surely feature. Know up front that it doesn’t. That leaves a decision as to whether what’s otherwise a creative and intriguing noir crime thriller is worth your time and money if you’ve got to supply your own ending.
Nick Spencer sets one hell of an opening hook. We’re introduced to police detective Issac Hernandez who has a very particular problem. The DNA being returned from the homicides he’s investigating is coming back as that of people who died anything up to two years previously.
The plot works, and Hernandez is well constructed as a three dimensional character with his own demons, but what really sells Shuddertown and genuinely makes it worth considering buying a book without a final chapter is the art of Adam Geen. He’s phenomenal. Just look at those sample pages. His people have great expressions, they’re naturally posed, the hands are well drawn, the art is beautifully textured, and he becomes more ambitious as the story continues. The individual panels are likely to have been photo referenced and worked on digitally, as James Gandolfini appears often by the end, but you don’t have to look at many other graphic novels to discover how frequently that results in lifeless, static art. Geen’s people are individual portraits, one per panel, yet the story is still told.
There is a revelation to end the final chapter, or the final chapter we’re given, and it’s suitably confusing, but by then Spencer has more or less revealed what’s going on, and why Hernandez is in the middle of it. Because the story is incomplete it can’t rank as high as it otherwise would, but this is good writing and jaw-droppingly good art.