Editor's Note: Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising #5 arrives in stores Wednesday, May 6.
It’s the end of the end, the “planet-shattering” conclusion of Shrapnel. Our heroine, Sam, has been through a lot. She’s been running from her past only to be sucked right back into the war, she regards her military career as a mistake, she’s seen her loved ones die in front of her--she even shaved her head. Now will she make it out alive? It almost seems as if she shouldn’t. I really like this comic and I do like Sam as a main character, but since she’s so down on life it would be more fitting for her to die at the end than to live with her continued misery. But that’s the life of a hero I guess.
Since this is the last issue what better way to end it than all out space war chaos? Sam is confronted by her old commanding officer who gives her the opportunity to surrender, which she refuses without a second thought. The marines then commence a complete galactic beat down on Sam and the remaining ground forces from Venus. I love the layout of the battle scenes here. It’s chaos. You can’t really tell what direction to look or which panel to read first. So much is happening and the art crew did a great job at bringing this madness to the reader. You feel and see what the characters must feel and see; it’s a bit overwhelming but in a good way. Also, the panel sizes and layout are warped or overlapped adding to the frantic feel. The full-page art still amazes me. I know they’re all paintings depicting war, but they’re beautiful. Radical has created something that other publishers should look into. The story would not be half as good if it did not have the outstanding artwork that accompanies it.
Back to the story--it seems that Sam’s efforts are the talk of the galaxy and her fight is being taken to heart by many, even those in the Alliance. Hijacking a ship, Sam and a small crew manage to run it into the ground thus saving the day. It’s a pyrrhic victory however, as not only is there a massive body count, but the threat of the Alliance still looms over Venus and Mars. As the saying goes, “you may have won the battle, but the war is far from over.”
Overall, as a series, this has been one of my favorites of the year and I do believe I heard whisperings of there being a second volume. There are some things I thought could have been changed or built upon, but this really was a near perfect story. It’s great because it’s a war comic, nothing fancy, no subplot about finding the super-weapon to enslave/save the galaxy, no distracting love story (although there was a tiny one). The focus was on war and how violent it is, and the toll it takes on a person or city, or the world. People die, including the ones you love, people make mistakes that they live to regret. Fighting for freedom isn’t always glorious or pretty--this is what Shrapnel is about.
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