In my day job (or, to be more honest, my weekend day job), I am exposed to a lot of comics that I know next to nothing about, encountering titles on their way from the wall to the back-issue bins.  ‘Shrugged’ is one such example, a book I’ve bagged and boarded a number of times, but never opened up to read.  Today’s the day where all that changes, so buckle up, ’cause your Major Spoilers review awaits!

SUMMARY

Pros
A likeable little adventure.
Turner-inspired art that’s still unique.


Cons

Another “Ordinary-But-Chosen-One” premise.
“Ange” and “Dev”‘?  A bit on-the-nose.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

READER RATING!

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ShruggedCoverSHRUGGED #4
Writer: Frank Mastromauro
Artist: Jonathan Marks
Colorist(s): Beth Soltelo & Kyle Ritter
Letterer: Josh Reed
Editor: Vince Hernandez
Publisher: Aspen Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Shrugged: Pretty much all teenagers are at the mercy of external forces:  Hormones, school, hormones, parental expectations, hormones, hormones, algebra and hormones.  Theo, however, has it worse than most, as he is a focus for two extra-dimensional creatures, Ange and Dev, who each want him to go their own way.  (Insert Stevie Nicks echo chamber.)  Like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, Ange and Dev are each competing to make Theo into their own image, to (somehow) influence their far-off nebulous worlds…

THE HOUSE MIKE TURNER BUILT…

You may be asking yourself, is issue #4 of the second volume of an ongoing series really the place to start?  The answer is twofold:  One, yes, it’s a perfectly fair expectation that any given issue of a book could hook me as a standalone issue, as any single comic is inevitably someone’s first experience with the characters within.  Secondly (and more importantly), it’s the issue that caught my attention, with the striking gold cover featuring what I presume is a powerful sorceress-type.  This issue gives a quick-but-effective synopsis on the inside front cover, and throws us right into the thick of things, as Theo’s love-interest Lou arrives at his house, only to find Lou and his friends being ATTACKED by Ange and Dev!  There’s some quick fighty-fighty, but four teenagers against a massive quasi-demonic beastie and a glowing angel/dynamo goes poorly for Theo.  When it comes to Aspen Comics, I occasionally have problems in that their entire publishing strategy seems to be “Have guys draw like Mike Turner,” but the art in this issue works for me as its own animal, with Johnathan Marks showing his own style withing the boundaries of Aspen’s house style.

THE CAVALRY ARRIVES…

Things are a bit muddier in the second half of the issue, as a sorceress named Ember Silva (who, I believe is the former TNA Wrestling Knockouts Champion) arrives, uses her powers to restore Ange and Dev to their normal forms, and insists that Theo and company return with her to Perspecta, the world from which she (as well as Theo’s guardians) hails.  Ember insists that he has to enlist another friend, a girl named Carrie, into their journey, leading to a sequence wherein the odd group goes to…

…the mall in Santa Monica.  It’s pretty cute stuff all around, with Ember getting accosted by a man who mistakes her for a karate enthusiast, Ange getting hit on by some jerk jocks, and Dev discovering the horror of frozen yogurt.  As long as you don’t think too hard about a few people getting their hair singed by Ember’s magic bolts, and the possible consequences thereof, it’s a fun little interlude, but it falls a bit flat when they arrive in Perspecta and find that things are much worse than anyone ever thought, making the delay seem frivolous.

THE BOTTOM LINE: I AM PLEASANTLY SURPRISED.

That’s a pretty minor complaint, though, as the issue reads smoothly and well, with only a few moments of “Which girl is that?”, a common problem with Turner-styled art.  Though Mastromauro’s story moves quickly, it’s a nicely paced page-turner that sets up the conflict for next time, while establishing Theo as a likeable character, albeit one in the “Secretly The Chosen One” mold of so much recent fiction.  Pound for pound, though, Shrugged #4 gets a lot of things right, and generates enough interest for me to seek out the first three issues, leaving us with a win/win situation and 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I’ll also be keeping an eye open for #5 well before it hits my bins…

Rating: ★★★½☆

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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