Thursday, August 13, 2009

Shakara: The Avenger

A couple of times a week, I put a new book on the shelf and tell you what I thought about it, and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a short review of Shakara: The Avenger (Rebellion, 2008).

As I was mentioning in last week's Thrillpowered Thursday, two new series debuted in Prog 2002. First was Storming Heaven, which is written up in that blog today, but the second was an entirely different prospect, something which was altogether more promising. Oddly, however, by the end of its first series, Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint's Shakara was proving itself to be just as much of a disappointment as Heaven, albeit for different reasons.

Shakara certainly looked like something amazingly new and readers had good reason to be excited about it. The story begins with the destruction of Earth and the raging, vengeful boasting of the galaxy's sole surviving human, an astronaut who was in space at the time and is now a prisoner in one of those fight-or-die sci-fi arenas. And on page four, this fellow, the guy we thought was the protagonist, gets casually murdered by one of what would prove to be a host of completely, wonderfully bizarre alien nasties. And then the killer and everybody else get slaughtered when the series' real protagonist shows up: an indestructible, utterly alien, long-limbed, spindly, mad-eyed warrior with giant freaking swords on the end of his arms who blows the almighty hell out of anybody and everybody in this violent, wild universe. His only word: the mad scream "SHAKARA!"

Well, frankly, if that doesn't get your attention, I don't know what to tell you.

Unfortunately, within a couple of episodes, Shakara had devolved into a dull bore because every installment was exactly the same. It all looked spectacular, with Flint's fantastic sense of design and desire to throw caution and convention to the wind, but it got boring really quickly. It was not an eight-part serial, but rather a collection of one-offs and two-parters, and in each one, some new, ostensibly indestructible super-nasty would do something indescribably over-the-top and evil, and then Shakara would show up, prove that he(it?) was a heck of a lot more indestructible than the super-nasty thought it was, and then open a supernova or a black hole up under under their ass and rocket away, yelling "SHAKARA!"

I was reminded very quickly of my friends in Corn Pone Flicks and their wonderful film Star Dipwads, and how the producer of some space epic couldn't understand why his audience was disappointed, because he'd given them suspense, three exciting battle scenes and the actual appearance of the protagonist, and was aggravated to learn that they wanted a plot as well.

Well, Shakara returned for two more series in 2005 and 2008, and the fourth series will be starting in 2000 AD in one week. The first three stories are all compiled in this book, and it looks like Morrison's plan was to establish something wilder and weirder from the outset, using the patchy 2002 series as a launchpad for longer, more intricate narratives which readers could really sink their teeth into. When that second story started in the summer of 2005, I know a few people's eyes rolled, but we quickly got in line, because "The Assassin" is a thunderously cool little epic which piles on one outlandish SF concept after another as a whole gang of intergalactic bad boys, any of whom could headline their own wild series, gets together to do something about this idiot screaming "SHAKARA!" and fucking with the laws of physics.

And then the third series introduces a mob of robot anti-gravity tyrannosaurs and gives some backstory to everything, and it's utterly perfect, blissfully cool and unlike anything else in comics. Long may it scream.

(Excerpted from Thrillpowered Thursday.)

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