I may not have been (nor am I still) particularly grabbed by its title, but in its first issue, Shaper fairly quickly sold me on its Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Superpower premise, with some jumpily-paced, but altogether fun storytelling and pretty spectacular art. But it also walks a fine line, and with even the slightest misstep could tumble into forgettable folly, particularly amidst so many other truly great books of a similar bent on the shelves. And while it definitely isn’t breaking new ground and may inevitably get lost amongst the bigger fish, Shaper continues to be an entertaining distraction. This second issue sees young, newly-activated Shaper, Spry, on a quest to save the parents he never knew he had, using the powers he never knew he had, from the enemy (wait for it) he never knew he had. In a bid to face Cal Victus, the Zod-esque leader of the galactic Caliphate who kidnapped his begetters, Spry begins rounding up his own posse of star-faring shit-kickers, starting with the robustly-aged, quick-draw shootist, Rand the Galaxian. In the process, he gets his own hulked-out Mos Eisley cantina 23 skidoo, complete with a much more multi-directional and clear “who shot first” moment. And for the most part, it’s a fun ride!
Obviously, given the correlations I drew above, there is a hefty amount of familiar cliché here, in Shaper #2’s space western meets evil universal empire meets heart-of-gold bounty hunter/smuggler meets last scion of an outlawed group of super-powered people; but really, what isn’t ripping off Star Wars these days ... including Star Wars? But the similarities do wear on the originality of the story.
Despite that, the script from Heisserer offers mostly fun fare, even pumping out one or two humorous turns (like the reaction Spry gets on walking into a bar, looking for a man). The story itself is predictable, as I mentioned, but it’s not without its unique twists or charms, either. The scene revealing “the best pilot in the galaxy” for example, was a fun little curveball; if a little stilted in its immediate aftermath.
And while the characters this issue sometimes come off as indistinguishable, at least as regards voice, and there is no small amount of on-the-nose coincidence (see: Kaylen’s arrival), I like the crew Spry is getting together here so far. I’m also into Shaper’s general story, and am especially looking forward to when our motley gaggle of protagonists will inevitably run the gauntlet of the Caliphate’s super-suited enforcers. Of course, much of that scene’s satisfaction will rest on the talents of the series’ artists.
While the absolutely incredible cover was illustrated by last issue’s interior artist, Felipe Massafera (in a way that reminds me of my dad’s old pulpy sci-fi books), this time the bulk of the visual duties are shouldered by Ace Continuado and Adelso Corona, who not only have amazing names (pseudonyms?), but also do a stellar job of mimicking Massafera’s establishing style, which I really enjoyed the first go-around. Then again, as cool as it is to see a laser-breathing bat-dragon and a teenage rock monster, I do feel that a large part of the cast here (both main and supplemental) would benefit from a more dynamic and unique design; something to set this apart from the ongoing cascade of similar sci-fi books.
I will also say that there are a few moments in Shaper #2 where the figure work gets a bit...“Liefeldian” with a few smatterings of Michael Turner-like torso elongation and narrowing, but otherwise this is a mostly rich (if not completely fresh) and fun direction. It also benefits from a largely sepia wash from colorist Felipe Dzioba, whose work really shines in the details of this universe’s grimier corners, and especially in the cuts, bruises and gashes it leaves.
Like its first issue, though much less literally, Shaper #2 ends on a bit of a shock, but it boasts a much more evenly-paced build to that crescendo and for all its faults, is a book I plan on sticking with for a while. It wouldn’t call it a necessarily vital read, but if you’ve got a spare four bucks and an empty space in your pile this week, definitely check it out.
Shaper #2 Writer: Eric Heisserer Artists: Ace Continuado (Pencils), Adelso Corona (Inks) Cover: Felipe Massafera Colorist: Wes Dzioba Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/15/15 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital