A young man discovers a long-hidden secret about himself and his family that puts him on a path he never would have imagined. Shaper #1 puts a spin on the much beloved Animorphs. Is it good?
Shaper #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
Eric Heisserer opens with a very creative hook: He introduces the story through the lens of a trading card game. He combines exposition and dialogue perfectly and allows Felipe Massafera to really show us the action and not let it get bogged down by too much exposition. The hook draws you in, introduces you to the major conflict, provides an intense action sequence, and is able to provide characterization in a very short time.
After the opening hook and its torrid pace, Heisserer slows it down and spends the middle third of the book focusing on introducing and building up the main character, a young man named Spry who is just finishing up his schooling. Spry is intriguing and has had a somewhat rough life so far, an absentee father being the crux. He is a troublemaker, albeit an intelligent one. Although, that streak may have run its course because we only see him dutifully working as a janitor and stock boy, but, hopefully, we will get to see his inner troublemaker come out in later issues.
In this middle section examining Spry’s character, Heisserer gets off track just a bit with a conversation Spry has with a coworker. The conversation is used primarily to examine the military and political structure of the world Spry inhabits. It doesn’t feel natural and seems to only serve the aforementioned purpose. However, Michael Heisler uses some unique lettering, not only with the word bubbles but also the sound effects, to create a squirrel-like language in your head when Spry’s coworker is speaking. You can hear the incessant chattering of his teeth.
Felipe Massafera’s artwork captures the sci-fi/fantasy aspect Heisserer has created. His transformation sequences are compelling; they not only are able to display the emotions of the Shapers but at the same time detail them switching forms in a very fluid fashion fighting as they transform. The different forms are pretty interesting and there is a pretty wide variety; although none of them are very groundbreaking or especially unique, the premise leaves Massafera with a ton of creative options moving forward. The splash pages are impressive and tug at your emotional drawstrings and create a sense of awe whether it is a ship blasting into space or Tor Ajax wading into the fray.
As far as panel layout, Massafera quickens the pace during the action sequences using a number of inset panels on top of larger splash images. This contrasts with many of the non-action pages where the panels are very basic and static.
Wes Dzioba uses a diverse color palette that brings the world to life. I enjoyed how he contrasted the playing card of Tor Ajax with the actual character. The former appears heroic and majestic while the latter looks extremely intimidating and even downright evil. It appears he uses a couple shades of darker orange to pull off the effect and he gives his eyes a laser red.
Is It Good?
Shaper #1 is an exciting adventure that details an on-going struggle between the persecuted Shapers and the Caliphate. Eric Heisserer is able to provide vital information whether it is characterization or world building through a creative opening hook, although there are a couple places where the writing is a little forced to detail certain world-building points. Filipe Massafera’s artwork is thrilling to look at and the transformation sequences are top notch. Shaper #1 creates a compelling and unique story that I hope to enjoy for many issues to come!