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Shutterbug Follies

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I usually find hard covers on books wasteful, but Shutterbug Follies is an exception. The binding here, plus the high quality paper and the uncluttered layout of the pages, makes this graphic novel feel like a photo album — which is probably the point, since photography plays a major role in the story. The packaging certainly is impressive. It’s also one of the only things I like about this book.

I usually choose graphic novels that already have good reputations, but the appeal of Shutterbug eludes me. The story has a Hitchcockian feel to it: Bee, a photo lab technician, gets caught up in a murder mystery. But this is good news only to those who actually like Hitchcock.

Early in the story, Bee is playing cards with a friend using copies of other people’s photographs. This was probably meant to be cute or funny, but I thought it came across as a shameful invasion of privacy. It didn’t exactly endear the hero to me. Most of Shutterbug’s problems, however, stem from its structure. Writer/illustrator Jason Little appears to be trying to make the story fast-paced. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by longer works like Blankets and Jimmy Corrigan that take their time in letting the narrative unfold, but Shutterbug’s forward momentum not only feels rushed, it forces the writer to include really weak scenes just to maintain the pace:

— Bee explains to a taxi driver why she wants to follow another car. The guy is a complete stranger and it’s a contrivance meant to pull the driver into the story.

— Bee listens in on to the bad guys through a conveniently placed air vent (a plot device used far too often in movies and TV shows).

— The main villain has to stop and explain his unnecessarily elaborate plan, probably in an attempt to explain earlier inconsistencies that had been placed there to create suspense (or the illusion of a complex plot).

Shutterbug’s biggest selling point is its art, especially if you prefer a cartoonish look to ultra-realism. Also: Little avoids using narration boxes, a device I’ve always found intrusive and a poor substitute for images and word balloons. However, although I usually applaud the use of wordless panels, this book is already short, so the lack of dialogue means that you’ll finish the book far too quickly. Though in this case, that’s probably a good thing.

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About Paul De Angelis

  • Paul — very good, concise, crisp, well written review.