Review by Frank Plowright
Eighteen year old Bee works as a photo developer, running off personal copies of pictures she finds interesting, amusing or disturbing, a hobby that hits overtime once photographer Oleg Khatchatourian delivers some negatives for developing. The grisly content first prompts Bee to suspect Khatchatourian of manipulating crime scenes, so she starts trailing him. Her suspicions deepen when his wife dies shortly after Bee has observed them arguing. Along the way she sucks others into her speculations, broadening her enclosed world.
Jason Little originally serialised Shutterbug Follies as a webstrip, and elected to retain the landscape format for book publication. It’s clever and endearing, and Little’s excellent ligne claire art, distinctively designed cast, and bold colours added to the theme of the dogged and adventurous investigator instantly recall Tintin despite much adult window dressing. Not many creators could deliver such a clever pastiche, never mind first time out, but this raises expectations that in some instances remain unfulfilled. Once the Tintin comparison is lodged, the flaws are also highlighted. Too many characters conveniently appear on cue as if stage directed, often merely to justify dialogue in a story told without captions. Long scenes of English in Russian accents among Russian speakers are a mistake, and just under a third of the book is devoted to a climax intended to build tension, but which eventually drags.
Still, there is much to enjoy, often small moments such as Little’s illustrations of the pictures that make Bee’s collection, and the generic vehicles. One interesting and coincidental element is how Shutterbug Follies illustrates the rapid advance of technology. Despite being a post-millennium publication Bee’s job is now virtually redundant, and the pager so prominent, equally so. Bee returns in The Motel Art Improvement Service.