Spry has been captured. Niva has revealed the location of Solace and Cal Victus has ordered his ship, the Omen, to obliterate Solace from known space. Victus is playing a game he likes to call, “Heroes of the Caliphate.” Is it good?
Shaper #4 (Dark Horse Comics)
First off, my initial reaction when I got to the end of Shaper #4 was, “That’s it? Where’s the rest?” I was so engrossed in the story; I was expecting it to continue. Unfortunately, I will have to wait until next month for the next installment.
Eric Heisserer returns to the same writing technique that initially grabbed us back in issue one. He uses a trading card game to narrate the story. However, Heisserer uses an urgent and ominous tone instead of the nonchalant, playful tone of the first issue. He does this by turning an ordinary game of “Heroes of the Caliphate” into a speed game. The objective: destroy the opponent’s heart in less than twenty minutes. Destroy Solace.
Heisserer’s emphasis on the speed game drives the pace of Shaper #4. It is a quick, fast-paced read. Despite the pace, Heisserer is able to incorporate key details. He reminds us of the previous issue with just one sentence of dialogue from Rand the Galaxian. Heisserer incorporates multiple team-building moments. The first is between Spry and his family. Spry feels a sense of belonging for the first time and he is hopeful. His hope is contagious. You can feel yourself cheering him on as he begins to break free of his bindings. The voice in my own head was chanting, “You can do it, you can do it. Yes!! Now go get that scumbag, Victus!”
The second team-building moment is between Rand the Galaxian, Adagia, and Kaylen. The trio has been left for dead by Tor Ajax, but they are determined to stop Cal Victus and the grudge is personal now. They work together to quickly repair the Gossamer Knife and with some fun “Hope our repairs worked” dialogue, they begin their pursuit of Victus.
Though this story has a lot of urgency and danger surrounding the imminent destruction of Solace, Heisserer finds ways to incorporate plenty of humor. At one point, Spry’s mother, Niva, transforms herself into a slug to escape her prison. Spry’s reaction is priceless, “That was extremely … unsettling.” Another notable moment is when Victus foresees the Gossamer Knife docking on The Omen. Victus’ captain’s reaction is priceless.
Ace Continuado’s artwork is top notch. The scene where Spry is breaking from his chains wills you to cheer for him. He uses five panels to dramatize the moment. He is able to capture the strength and determination Spry exhibits as he slowly brings his hands together, overcoming the energy pulses that have him chained. The bulging of his muscles and the grit of his teeth display his willpower and determination.
Continuado’s splash pages are truly epic, whether it is one of Tor Ajax or the planet Solace. They evoke an emotional response. Adelso Corona’s heavy shadowing works extremely well, capturing the danger and ominous nature of this issue. The shadowing isn’t overdone either. It is used effectively in highlighting Spry’s escape from his bindings and showing the evil of Cal Victus as he sits atop his throne.
Is It Good?
Shaper #4 is a fast-paced adventure filled with urgency, danger, and heroics. Heisserer’s dialogue and Continuado’s artwork balance the intense, dramatic moments with enjoyable humor. There is some definite character-building moments as Spry’s will is tested under duress and Rand the Galaxian issues his call for vengeance. If you are looking for a fun, enjoyable space opera with strong writing you need to be reading Shaper. I can’t wait for the next issue!