Shutter 2

shutter 2Today, Patrick and Greg are discussing Shutter 2, originally released May 14th, 2014

Patrick: Do you remember the first time you realized your childhood experience wasn’t the same as everyone else’s? My Grandparents lived in Florida over the winter, and my mother made it a priority to spend at least a week with them every year. That meant that she pulled us out of school in Wisconsin for two weeks every year (incidentally, it means we also spent a weekend at Disney every year before finishing the drive down to Anne and Elmer’s place). I had grown up assuming that everyone’s mother gathered two weeks worth of homework for their children before forcing a vacation at the least opportune time for everyone. This was a normal occurrence for the Ehlers family, and while it’s a simple and trivial example, it demonstrates how no one thinks their childhood is strange — or even unusual — until they grow up. Still, I think there’s part of me deep down that still feels like I should be able to take two weeks off to go to Disney apropo of nothing every winter. Katie’s childhood is undoubtedly stranger than mine, but she too has that creeping inkling of assumed normalcy. Only, y’know, it involves cat-gangsters, ghost ninjas and flying saucers.

Last time we saw Kate, she was set upon by a Robot in a fancy top hat and his trio of Rat Mages (or… something). It seems that they aren’t the only interested party, as those aforementioned cat-gangsters also arrive, claiming that they need to take Kate away. Here’s the thing — she’s a former child adventurer, so a little daring escape is no damn problem for for her. A broken bone and some cuts and bruises later, Katie gets to go home — under continued police surveillance, of course. Fat lot of good it’s going to do against the rocket hurtling towards her apartment window.

Kate’s actually taking most of this in stride. As the first issue gleefully illustrated a number of times, fighting for her life against bizarre threats is old hat. The thing that is troubling our hero is the possibility of who’s behind all this: her siblings. In a poignant flashback, seven year old Katie asks her father for a brother or sister, but he categorically denies her. His hemming and hawing at first comes off as completely relatable — how do you explain to a child who just wants a friend that you can’t bring another life into this world for any number of personal, emotional, financial, or otherwise-embarrassing reasons? As the issue continues, and we get a glimpse at the force behind the cat-gangsters, a mysterious, magical character that uses some kind of serpent-virus-monster to communicate with his/her underlings.

Kate's sisterThere’s no evidence for this in the text, but I got the immediate impression that this is one of Kate’s siblings. Think about it: the one piece of information Kate keeps from her friend is the knowledge that Gentleman Robot is protecting her from her siblings. Also, very little happens in that flashback, so the relevant piece of information there is that Kate wanted brothers and sisters, but couldn’t have them. Their existence/non-existence remains a source of anxiety for her. Just as she has grown accustomed to having aliens and ghosts and gorilla doctors in her life, she’s also grown used to the idea of not having siblings. So her adult life isn’t presenting a Call to Adventure in the form of monsters and flying saucers, but in the promise of a brother or sister.

Actually, let’s talk about that gorilla doctor for a second.

Gorilla doctorNew York City appears to be full of these kinds of creatures — animals in people-clothes, men with wings. It’s a strange mash-up of images fantastical and mundane, like a toned-down version of Ugly Americans. The series never offers an explanation for these creatures, but that just reinforces the casual otherness of Kate’s world. It’s so much more personal, and paints a much richer character, that the biggest upset from her kidnapping experience is the revelation that she has brothers and sisters.

Greg, I’ll leave any discussion of Leila Del Duca’s art to you. I’m totally charmed by her designs and detailed pages, but some of the action sequences cut around between locations too frequently for me to keep a handle on what’s going on. Any minor complaint gets washed away by the design of that skull-dragon-thing. HORRIFYING. Also, what’s one weird thing from your childhood you didn’t realize was weird until recently? I’ll give you one more of mine: my parents didn’t play music in the house — ever. Not even on the radio. When I did discover music on my own, I was like 16. Weird, right?

Greg: Patrick, that is totally and 100% weird, particularly considering my “I-thought-this-was-normal-but-apparently-it’s-just-me” childhood. I grew up surrounded by musical family members — my parents were both music teachers, my grandpa played trumpet for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, my aunt was an acclaimed opera singer — and thus music enveloped and informed every facet of my upbringing. No joke, at Christmas time, we still earnestly gather around a piano and sing Christmas songs in four-part harmonies. That too-syrupy-for-Sound-Of-Music nonsense is my real life, and whenever I tell folks that and they’re like “Greg, that’s really weird,” it takes me a second to realize that they’re correct.

Speaking of stretched segues, this comic, too, is really weird, yet I really enjoy it. Del Duca’s art works for me as a natural extension of the comic’s intersection between the whimsical and fun, and the serious and horrifying (“casual otherness” is a delightful way of putting it, Patrick). This thesis statement is laid out on the table in our very first splash page, as we smash cut from a delightfully cheery and simple cat making cookies, to a detailed and terrifying battle scene.

Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 12.30.28 PMIn a symbolic sense, this is perhaps less odd than it superficially seems. While it may not involve gorilla dragons or skull-dragon-things, real life still throws horrible, insane, and trying wrenches into our best attempts at normalcy. Whether our burdens involve health, money, or matters of the heart, we’ve all got ’em, and they can be as lumbering and obtrusive as a simian wearing doctors’ scrubs. Yet, since we have no other choice but to accept these situations and move on, we do what we have to do — which, for Kate, sometimes involves leaping onto an NYPD flying saucer.

This moral lesson is part of why I found the jump from present Kate to past Kate so touching and heartbreaking. When we’re kids, we truly believe that big problems (I’m fundamentally lonely) can be solved by simple solutions (My dad can give me another sibling). A big part of growing up, then, involves an existential acceptance that some of these big problems just have to be dealt with pragmatically, with a knowledge that there’s no quick fix to the oft-craziness of reality. And since we’re comparing this melancholy/comic tone (melancomic?) to dearly departed comedy TV shows (Ugly Americans is so friggin’ underrated), I’d like to offer the recently deceased Community as a thematic sister story.  

Now, if you’d ever like to go to Disney for two weeks apropos of nothing, I’m down, but be warned — we’re singing the whole damn time.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

One comment on “Shutter 2

  1. My “thought it was normal” story: shortly after my parents got married, my mom’s mother passed away, leaving my mom to worry about her lonely old dad. She didn’t know many people his same age to introduce him to, but one obvious friend was my dad’s mother, who had been divorced since my dad was a kid. Turns out, they were more compatible than anyone anticipated, and got married the year before I was born. So I grew up thinking that everyone’s grandparents got reshuffled when their parents got married. I was otherwise a pretty smart kid, I swear.

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