Vintage Comic Review: “Shatter” (First Comics, 80s August Special)
Welcome back to 80s August, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of the greatest decade since the discovery of zero.
Today we’re going to look at Shatter Special issue 1, a sci-fi adventure published in June 1985 by First Comics, and billed as the “first computerized comic book.”
Set on a gritty, futuristic version of earth, Shatter follows the exploits of a freelance security contractor named Jack Scratch aka Sadr Al-Din aka Shatter. He has a lot of names. So what exactly is a freelance security contractor? It’s basically a bounty hunter.
Scratch is a bit down on his luck, and he needs an injection into his cash flow. Upon seeing an ad for a for a bottle of Coca-Cola syrup selling for $75 thousand (in this future, it hasn’t been made in years), Scratch decides to take on a risky police bounty to get enough cash to buy it for himself.
Scratch begins his search for this dangerous mass murderer at his usual stomping grounds, and the reader gets a pretty good sense of his tactics and techniques when hunting down a target. Unfortunately for Scratch, there is another contractor who is pursuing the fugitive, which leads to the inevitable showdown between him and Scratch, and *spoilers!* the target escaping from both of them. The book certainly take some inspiration from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner film, but it has plenty of unique ideas of its own. “Bug” Bombs that are built using a rat brain for targeting purposes? Wild.
As mentioned above, Shatter is billed as the “first computerized comic book.” That’s because the line art was all completed using an early Macintosh computer (the best that 1985 money could buy!). The colors, on the other hand, were still done traditionally. This gives Shatter a very unique, pixelated look, one that matches the futuristic, sci-fi subject matter extremely well. And for the most part, the artwork is pretty good. The layouts and designs are still fairly dynamic despite the rigid format. However, this style breaks down when subjects in the image are smaller, making them look much clunkier, and much of the artwork was reused throughout the book, which was disappointing.
Shatter Special set up an interesting world, and I was still curious about the world and the bounty hunting life of those who live in it. So much so, that when I came across Shatter issue 2 by complete happenstance, I snatched it up. After reading it, I was confused to find a story that didn’t seem to follow from the book I had already read. That’s because after Shatter Special issue 1, First Comics continued the story as a series of 8-page backup stories in Jon Sable – Freelance issues 25-30. Then the Shatter story received its own ongoing series after that, so my “issue 2” was several stories – and several months – separated from the Shatter Special issue. Seems like a weird way to sell a new property to me, but I probably would have been more “tuned in” if I was picking up the books regularly in 1985.
Overall, Shatter Special issue 1 was an entertaining, one-shot read. The novelty of the artwork makes it a bit of a curio, not just because it’s different, but because it is an early forerunner to the digital art techniques that so many modern artists use today. If you’re interested in the history of comic book art, or a big Blade Runner or general sci-fi fan, Shatter Special issue 1 may still be worth checking out. It’s not typically an expensive pickup, either. I can’t say so much for the follow-up ongoing series yet, though, as jumping straight into issue 2 left me very confused. Something about being infused with artist RNA? Who are all of these new supporting characters? Bah! They shall all be shot with Crimson!
Thanks for reading!
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