Welp, I honestly never thought that Marvel would be rolling out a Shatterstar title in the year 2018. Shatterstar is a character that epitomizes what was bad about 1990’s super hero comics. Having said that, just because a character may suck when originally created and delivered does not mean that there is no hope for that character to ever be rehabilitated. There are definitely characters who have risen above their roots and evolved into compelling characters.
Tim Seeley has been tapped to be the writer for this new title. Personally, I enjoy Seeley more as a penciler than I do as a writer. Still, I am willing to keep an open mind and see what Seeley can do on this title. Seeley has said that he wants to take the John Wick approach with Shatterstar. I love the John Wick movies, but the fact is that a rip-off of John Wick can quickly devolve into another uncreative and predictable revenge action story. Let’s hope for the best and check out Shatterstar #1.
Words: Tim Seeley
Pencils: Carlos Villa
Inks: Juan Vlasco
Flashback Art: Gerardo Sandoval
Colors: Carlos Lopez
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with a flashback scene on Mojo World. We see Shatterstar in an arena killing all of the other gladiators. We learn that Shatterstar’s real name is Gaveedra-Seven. That his arena battles are broadcast across Mojoworld in the never-ending quest for ratings.
We then cut to the present with Shatterstar sweeping up outside of the apartment building that he owns. Shatterstar put down his swords and became Ben Gaveedra: Landlord. (Only two pages into this issue and I am beginning to regret purchasing it.)
Shatterstar’s apartment building is located in College Point, Queens and is in a bleak area that is right under the flight path for planes coming to and from the airport. The apartment building is name Manor Crossing. Shatterstar set it up as a place for people who are outcasts from alternate futures and parallel dimensions. (That’s one hell of a niche service.)
Shatterstar likes being a landlord and says that the position sounds very regal and respectable. Shatterstar finishes cleaning up the dog poop on the sidewalk. He then turns to a Pug sitting on the front stairs to the apartment building. (Oh, no fair! Seeley is trying to exploit my undying love for Pugs in order to gain a higher score from me! Speaking of which, I need to go find my little Pug, Coco, and give her some snuggles.)
Shatterstar says that he already talked to the Pug about pooping on the sidewalk. The Pug replies that he already said that he won’t abide by Shatterstar’s imperialist laws. We learn that the Pug is named Karl Snortenthau. His codename is Pug-Smasher. Karl is a former anti-nationalist terrorist super villain from Earth–8311. He was cast out of his Earth during a battle with Thanhorse. (Heh. Okay. Seeley wins. I like it.)
A woman with her schnauzer jog past. Shartterstar says that Karl leaves him no choice. Shatterstar picks up Karl and starts snuggling him. Shatterstar calls him “Pootie-kins” and how Karl is going to win best in show. The schnauzer gives Karl a disgusted look. The woman and the schnauzer continue on their way.
Karl angrily says that Shatterstar just emasculated him in front of Mitzi Moscowitz the most eligible schnauzer in Queens. Shatterstar says that he will do it again unless Karl stops pooping on the sidewalk. Karl walks away and grudgingly agrees. (Yeah, so in just one page Karl exudes about ten times more personality than Shatterstar. Can we just make this a Pug-Smasher comic?)
Shatterstar enters the apartment building. At this point, Seeley has us methodically meet all of the tenants. First we meet the two bothers known as Goldon and Crimzor. (These names and character designs are just awful. Like 1990’s level awful.) The two of them are working on writing a tv show script.
We then meet the End. She is a woman with a bionic leg. A coven of X-Angels sent her back in time to kill the half-demon mutant known as Sister Conflagration The Burning Nun who would turn the world into hell. (Getting a bit too cute with the name with this one.) However, in this time period, the Burning Nun is just a shy 13-year-old girl. The End decided to provide friendship, guidance, and a safe place for the Burning Nun when her mother was drinking.
We then meet the Night Thrasher of Earth–90214. (Ha! Get it?! Evidently, Seeley does not just love super heroes from the 1990’s. He also has a sweet taste for the best TV show of the entire 1990’s. Fight me!)
This Night Thrasher is an old man who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease who refuses to take his medicine. (Um, we all know that this is literally zero chance that this character survives this issue, right?) And Night Thrasher is also super cranky.
We then meet Tina Cooke. She is from Earth–1218 where there are no super heroes, gods, or cosmic beings. (Earth–1218 was created by Chris Claremont and is Marvel’s answer to DC’s Earth-Prime.)
TIna was a bank manager who accidentally slipped through a rift and landed on Earth–616. Tina decided to stay on this Earth since she found it so much more exciting. Tina is fascinated by everything super heroes and often corners Shatterstar and peppers him with questions about his past as a super-hero.
Shatterstar finds that Tina’s questions make him feel uncomfortable so he always tries to slip away from her as fast as he can. (Shatterstar comes across like a dick in this scene. Tina seems excited but nice.)
We zip forward to later that night. Shatterstar is out at the theater to watch a play. Shatterstar says that he is obsessed with the theater and will go watch any play no matter how large or small the production. Shatterstar goes to a play once a week. He likes plays because of the characters and the lack of TV cameras.
We cut to Pug-Smasher in his costume with his large mace going on patrol. (I die. I adore Pug-Smasher.) Suddenly, a group of super-villains appear outside of the apartment building. One of them captures Pug-Smasher. (NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!) Another one of them quickly takes down Goldon and Crimzor. Another super-villain (Who looks like a cross between a stripper and an Amazon. Fantastic costume design. Love it.) takes down The End. Another super-villain captures Tina.
Shatterstar leaves the theater and then walks past a nightclub. He sees Rictor at the door of the nightclub. Rictor used to be a tenant at Shatterstar’s apartment building. Shatterstar thinks how Rictor and he were in a relationship together. Yet, Shatterstar grew distant and cold to Rictor and Rictor ended up leaving Shatterstar. The last thing Rictor said to Shatterstar is that the problem with them is that they do not fight enough. (Uhh..what kind of toxic view of a good relationship is that?)
Shatterstar walks back to his apartment building. He realizes that the building has been attacked. The only tenant left in the building is old man Night Thrasher. Night Thrasher killed one of the super-villains who attacked the apartment building. Unfortunately, Night Thrasher sustained a mortal wound. Night Thrasher says that he took one of the bad guys with him. Night Thrasher says that time keeps marching on and that this is as far as he wanted to go. Night Thrasher then dies. (Told ya.)
Shatterstar goes and checks his security camera system. He sees the footage of the super-villains. They are the Death Sponsors from Mojo World. (These names are just hilariously awful 1990’s styled names.) Shatterstar then sees Gringrave. A young female super-villain.
We then flashback to the arena in Mojoworld. Shatterstar is facing off with Gringrave. Gringrave easily takes Shatterstar down without breaking a sweat. Gringrave then stands on Shatterstar and says, “Thanks, boy. You made me smile.”
The crowd chants for Shatterstar. Gringrave says that the crowd loves Shatterstar. Gringrave says that Shatterstar is going to be her partner. That she is going to capitalize on his natural talent. She says that the number one lesson is to give the audience what it wants by wanting the same ting. Gringrave plans a big kiss on Shatterstar.
We hop back to the present. Shatterstar throws his computer onto the ground. Shatterstar thinks how Gringrave has given his character motivation. Belief. Desire. She made him who he was in that time before. And now she had taken the people he had sworn to protect. The only thing that he had. (Oh, wow. This is way too on the nose. Damn, son. Learn to show the readers some things.)
Shatterstar opens up a case that has his two swords and his stupid headgear like an amateur boxer would wear. Shatterstar says that his relationship with Gringrave ended in tears and pain. And not because they did not fight enough. (These themes they are not subtle!)
Shatterstar closes old Man Night Thrasher’s eyes. Shatterstar then buried old man Night Thrasher. The narration says that, “He buried Mr. Taylor’s body beside the manor. And laid Ben Gaveedra to rest beside him.” (That, my friends, is groan inducing narration!)
Shatterstar is standing next to the grave and poses with his two swords drawn cross-armed across his chest. Shatterstar says that he will hunt the Death Sponsors. That he will rescue his tenants. That he will avenge Mr. Taylor. That he will kill Gringrave. (I will say on thing about this writing. Seeley leaves absolutely nothing unexplained or to the imagination. Literally everything is spelled out for you!)
We then shift to Mojoworld. We see the grows in the arena watching video screens with Shatterstar on it. The crowd cheers from Grandmaster. The Grandmaster says, “A prayer to a bored god. Cut to fade to titles. End of episode one.” End of issue.
The Good: Shatterstar #1 was an unimpressive read. Having said there were some positive aspects to this debut issue. The real star of this issue is Karl Snortenthau! It just does not get any better than Pug-Smasher. Seriously, Seeley should just write a Pug-Smasher title. It would be a far better match for Seeley’s cheesy but endearing and wacky humor. I’d buy that title in a heartbeat.
Karl is such a great character. His name is perfect, too. Anyone who has a Pug can testify as to how much these little beasts snort all day long. I also love Karl’s personality. Karl is the only character who displayed anything more than a boring vanilla personality.
I have to praise Seeley for performing all of the necessary technical tasks of a debut issue of a new title. Shatterstar #1 is extremely new reader friendly. You do not need to know absolutely anything at all about Shatterstar’s character in order to completely enjoy this issue. From Shatterstar’s basic origin on Mojoworld to his relationship with Rictor. Everything that the reader needs to know is given to them in this issue.
I really appreciate how Seeley managed to make this issue new reader friendly without boring long-time readers with a dull re-telling of Shatterstar’s origin. I also appreciate how Seeley was able to bring new readers up to speed in such a concise fashion. Seeley quickly hits the ground running with this new chapter and direction in Shatterstar’s life.
Seeley also performs all the necessary world building for this new title in order to establish the setting as well as introducing all of the supporting characters for this title. The apartment building is established as the foundation for this new setting for Shatterstar’s title. Seeley then clearly communicates how the setting for this title is structured and operates.
Seeley then rolls out all of the supporting cast for this new title. And Seeley does not skimp on the size of the supporting cast, either. We are quickly and concisely introduced to Karl, The End, Sister Conflagration, Goldon, Crimzor, and Tina. The supporting characters are introduced to the reader in an economical fashion. The reader does not get any full sense of any of the supporting cast outside fo Karl. But, the reader at least gets the rough character sketch for each of the supporting cast.
Seeley also clearly communicates to the reader what kind of story that the reader can expect on this title. Seeley also makes his pitch to the reader why they should come back for more in a direct manner. Shatterstar is going to be a straight forward revenge action story. This helps to give Shatterstar something to differentiate it from other mainstream super hero titles.
Shatterstar #1 is a well paced and plotted issue. Seeley quickly installs the opening story arc and wastes no time introducing the main villain. I do love the compressed story telling that Seeley brings to the table. There is no waiting around and stalling for an issue or two as Shatterstar’s origin is re-told to us or while the author slowly builds the new setting for Shatterstar. Instead, Seeley moves with a clear purpose in mind and immediately introduces the protagonist, the protagonist’s supporting cast, the antagonist, and the antagonist’s supporting cast. The main conflict is set in place and this initial story arc is off and running by the end of this issue.
I like how most of the names for the characters in this issue are awful 1990’s styled names. That perfectly matches Shatterstar’s ridiculously 1990’s codename. Now, I am putting this into the “Good” portion of the review because I have to believe that Seeley is doing this on purpose. I think that Seeley is having fun with the ridiculous sounding in this issue. If Seeley actually thinks he is creating great names then I would slide this into the “Bad” category.
The artwork in this issue is slightly above average. There is really nothing that excites or disappoints the reader. The art gets the job done and does not get in the way of the story, but it never rises to anything other than serviceable art.
The Bad: Unfortunately, despite Seeley checking off all the necessary requirements of a debut issue of a new title, the fact remains that Shatterstar #1 is a dreadfully bland and boring issue. Yes, Seeley does carry out all of the necessary tasks of a debut issue. However, Seeley does so in such a robotic and dull fashion. There is very little soul to this comic.
The entire story is right on the surface. There is no real substance or depth to this story at all. The reader is presented with a shallow read that does little to present a richly detailed story that pulls the reader deeper into this fictitious world. The setting while clearly established lacks any texture or complexity. The setting is paper-thin and fails creates a compelling foundation for the story.
All of the themes dealt with in Shatterstar #1 are done in a simplistic and heavy-handed manner. There is no artfulness or subtlety to the themes that Seeley presents to the reader. Seeley falls for the easy route of simply showing and not telling readers. Seeley spells out everything in a direct and heavy-handed manner that feels more like the author simply telling the reader what is going on and telling the reader how they should interpret the story and how the reader should feel.
There is zero character work performed in this issue outside of the lovable and heroic Karl. Shatterstar is the super hero version of tapioca pudding. Shatterstar is painfully bland. I have found beige walls to be more compelling to watch than Shatterstar. Seeley fails to give Shatterstar anything that would resemble a personality at all. There is nothing here for the reader to like or dislike given how generic Shatterstar is presented in this issue.
Shatterstar’s supporting cast suffer from the same fate as the titular character. I mean, aside from the amazing and incomparable Karl. The rest of the supporting cast are nothing more than one-dimensional cardboard cut outs. The supporting cast mechanically carry out their roles in this issue with all the passion of an automaton.
The villains in Shatterstar #1 are just as bland as Shatterstar and his supporting cast. The reader knows next to nothing about the Death Sponsors. Gringrave is the big bad and she comes across as nothing more than a generic version of that tiny 90 lb girl who can defeat anyone trope that you see in comics and action movies. A compelling villain is vitally important for any story arc. At this point, Shatterstar is lacking a compelling villain.
Seeley completely fails to get the reader even remotely invested in Shatterstar or any of his supporting cast. With the obvious exception of Karl, of course. The fact that the reader is not vested in any of the characters is highly problematic for a revenge action story. It is imperative that the hero of a revenge action story is compelling and engaging and able to get the viewer or reader to viscerally feel their pain. It is also paramount that the reader or viewer be emotionally invested in the supporting character who is sacrificed in order to set the revenge story in motion.
Sadly, that is not the case with Shatterstar #1. And since this issue is built all around being a John Wick styled revenge story this is where the story fails the most. The reader has no investment in any of the characters much less any investment in old man Night Thrasher. Poor old man Night Thrasher does not rise about anything more than a simple character created to be fridged in order to kick off this story arc.
Now, this approach absolutely can work when the reader is invested in what has either been taken from the hero or what the hero has lost. However, all of the supporting characters were introduced in a cursory fashion and were written as nothing more than mere props. It was only one single page after the reader had first been introduced to these characters that they are all taken out by the villains. That is just not enough time or content in order to get the readers properly invested into these characters.
As much as I love compressed storytelling, Seeley would have been better off rolling out a four issue story arc at first that simply established Shatterstar and his supporting cast and gave him an entry-level bad guy to defeat. Then after that story arc, Seeley hopefully would have made the readers invested in the supporting vast and the setting for this title sot that once the villains kills old man Night Thrasher and kidnaps the others that the reader is actually emotionally invested and feels sharp desire to see our hero go on the warpath for revenge.
All of this combines to make Shatterstar #1 feel like a generic and predictable story. This issue comes across as a pedestrian paint-by-numbers story. It feels like Seeley had the kernel of a neat idea for this title, but then went about executing his idea in the most mechanical and uncreative fashion possible.
Shatterstar #1 also fails to deliver any action. All we get is one single page of action. Even when all of the supporting characters get attacked Seeley cuts away from their story so that all of the action takes place off panel. We just see the bad guys appearing and then Shatterstar viewing the aftermath. But, the exciting action that occurred in between those two moments? Nope. We don’t get any of that. No soup for you!
Overall: Shatterstar #1 was a disappointing read. I think that Seeley is absolutely on to something with the setting to this title. I think the idea of an apartment building for refugees from other parallel Earths and time streams is a cool concept. And Shatterstar being the ass-kicking badass turned paternalistic hero looking to help others is a good role for him. A bad-ass fighter who reluctantly battles is a compelling character.
However, the lack of quality character work, nuance to the story, or deft handling of the various themes really works to make Shatterstar #1 an entirely forgettable read. At this point, I would not recommend spending your hard-earned money on Shatterstar #1. There are far too many other high quality mainstream super hero titles on the market that offer a much better return on your money.
Having said all of that, if Seeley can bring more depth to the story and beef up his character work then Shatterstar just might turn into a surprisingly fun title.