Current Reviews


Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising #3

Posted: Monday, March 2, 2009
By: Charles Webb

M. Zachary Sherman
Bagus Hutomo, Leos “Okita” Ng (c)
Radical Comics
Plot: A space marine in exile on Venus leads a rag-tag group of rebels against the invading colonial power. In this issue, Captain Samantha Vijaya comes up with an audacious plan to strike back at the invaders.

Comments: While prepping for their upcoming engagement against the Earth military, Captain Vijaya relates the origins of marines carrying swords into battle--in remembrance of the Battle of Tripoli. She tells her troops--civilians, engineers, and soldiers who just don’t trust her --that the story is a reminder of perseverance and faith in the midst of adversity.

My reading of it (as related here) is that the human cost of armed conflict can be boiled down into something meaningless and artificial--some memento or symbolism that “means” something but doesn’t reflect the actual sacrifice of the dead. This is a roundabout way of saying I’d like to see more of the human cost and less of the symbolism in Shrapnel. The key to the best stories about war and soldiers are the human interactions, but over the course of this book much of it is dominated by descriptions of tactics and tough-guy military chatter.

The plot, as it were, is for the most part planning and strategy, so a new reader without the benefit of the previous issues might be lost. The dialogue has the feel of listening in on radio chatter from the military which gives it a certain authenticity but also an element of coldness and distance from the proceedings.

There is a telling moment of the book that might be, when Captain Vijaya, ambivalent about the return to leadership, has a conversation with an imaginary child in the bathroom. Being the lead character, it’s good to get these kinds of insights into the Captain. She’s the typical reluctant soldier, but the weird, externalized manifestation of her doubts in the form of a child goes a bit of distance to giving her internal conflict more personality.

Finally, on the art front, I’m not a fan of what seems to be hugely computer assisted art. Much of the line work is vague or washed out, making figures indistinct and often making it hard to discern who’s speaking from panel to panel. The coloring is for the most part a wash of grays, blacks, and browns, giving the world of Shrapnel a muddy, worn-out feeling that’s appropriate given the narrative.

Final Word: Coming into the middle of the story, a new reader will be lost. But there is something interesting about Captain Vijaya that makes me want to follow her adventures in the next installment.

If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the author’s work at Monster In Your Veins

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