The angel and devil that sit on your shoulders, whispering into your ears, are real. And they are here to help! …Mostly. Lowfat reviews Shrugged by Aspen Comics.
Shrugged is an on-again, off-again series by Aspen Comics, created by the late Michael Turner and Frank Mastromauro. The world of Perspecta is populated by angels (called Elysians) and demons (called Nefarians). They share a bit of an “Elois and Morlocks” relationship (The Time Machine by H.G. Wells): Elysians rule peacefully from a banal metropolis over the segregated, dirty streets populated by the rowdy Nefarians.
Meanwhile, on Earth, a high schooler named Theo serves as a host to an Elysian named Ange and a Nefarian named Dev (get it? Angel and Devil! Okay, so maybe this book isn’t very subtle). Ange coaxes Theo to be passive, forgiving, and trusting, while Dev goads Theo to embrace his more reckless, fun-loving id.
Issue 3 seems to have been the end of this volume’s first act, and issue 4 begins the second act. All of the characters become united – geographically, at least – and the pace of the story quickens as it begins its race toward what seems to be a grand, inevitable conflict.
Issue 4 starts with a flashback that sheds some light on a mystery that has been building since the first issue. It then jumps ahead to the present, where Theo and his friends desperately try to find a way to stop all the chaos that George, Dev’s newly-birthed son, is causing. The issue wraps up back in Perspecta, where tension between the Elysians and the Nefarians is reaching critical levels.
Shrugged has been a fun ride so far. The concepts are novel but not mid-blowing, and the art is competent, largely due to the multiple colorists, who keep the images appealing and crisp. The covers are wonderful, and on par with AAA titles like Batman or Amazing Spider-Man.
This book is best suited for kids or young adults. Despite its T for Teen rating, there are no real swear words, and the blood and violence are kept to a minimum. A bloodstain on a rock is about as messy as this issue gets. Most books on comic shelves today are aimed at an older audience: adults, or at least folks squarely in their teens, and it’s refreshing to see a book that could arguably be fun for all ages while still maintaining a fairly high degree of quality.
That isn’t to say this book is not without its faults. There are some pacing issues: although the art is competent and clean, many of the most impactful shots occur off-panel, which can be jarring. For example, the reader doesn’t need to see the exact moment a punch connects with a face, but the panel preceding that impact should at least show the punch-thrower swinging their fist, not merely readying their arm for some as-yet unclear motion.
And while the story has been a fun, fast-paced ride so far, the dialog itself feels lazy at times. The panels showing Theo skateboarding are fine enough on their own without the shoehorned-in, generic 1980s lines shouted from the characters in the background. The page would have been stronger without any words at all.
Similarly, when Dev taunts his attackers with “Give it up, meatballs! You know you guys can’t take me in a fight!” it reminds the reader what Shrugged really is: a somewhat-polished Saturday morning cartoon in comic book form. Which is perfectly fine, so long as the reader expects it, and knows what they’re purchasing.
For more information on Shrugged, Aspen Comic’s online comic shop can be found here.
Thanks to Aspen Comics for providing us with digital review copies in exchange for our honest reviews!
Shrugged (Vol 3, Issue 4)
- The angels vs. devils concept – though not new – is interesting and fun
- Fast-paced plot
- Characters are likable, if not necessarily compelling
- Like with previous issues, the flow from one panel to the next can be jarring
- Dialogue could use some tightening up