Review: 'Shatterstar' #1 Seems as Disinterested as Its Main Character

Shatterstar #1 takes a potentially brilliant premise and wastes it with an internal monologue that's almost painfully boring and stiff.

The best way to describe Shatterstar #1 is to explain its first two pages. The first page shows Shatterstar in all his 1990s glory, complete with head sock, gore, pouches, and ponytail. He holds his dual-bladed swords up in violent triumph, a look of joy on the face. Readers then turn the page to see Shatterstar cleaning up dog poop from a sidewalk. The first page is reader expectations for what a Shatterstar miniseries is all about, and the second page is the grim, mundane reality of what they're getting.

The new X-Men miniseries, written by Tim Seeley and illustrated by Carlos Villa, reinvents the ex-alien gladiator as the landlord for a small apartment building full of outcasts from different universes. Some are boisterous, some are cute, and others come from mundane worlds much like our own. However, Shatterstar's quiet new life is shattered when a team of Mojoworld residents attack while he's gone, kidnapping the bulk of his residents and leaving Shatterstar to go and rescue them.

The premise reminded me a bit of John Wick, if John Wick were a bisexual gladiator from a different dimension and also from the future and the dog were replaced with an alternate-universe version of Night Thrasher. However, the whole comic falls flat due to a running commentary that appears on every page, one that sucks the fun out of it and turns it into the most dour comic book about a stab-happy gladiator with a complicated history possible.

I think Seeley's intent with the narration was to show that Shatterstar was bored or depressed by his mundane lifestyle, even though the internal monologue mentioned that he had chosen this life and was content by his existence. There's even a page detailing the state of his relationship with Rictor (his ex-lover and teammate) in which Rictor directly accuses him of that. While that intent is noble, he takes way too long establishing Shatterstar's mundanity and thus infuses the entire comic with it. Honestly, it's pretty telling that the book's sole action scene is interspersed with sepia-shaded panels from a Shakespearean play.

Seeley's weird tone and direction for this book seemingly shackles Carlos Villa's work as artist, as his talent is spent depicting Shatterstar cleaning up dog feces or reviewing leases. For whatever reason, Marvel chose to use Gerardo Sandoval for two flashback scenes, and they're easily the best three pages of art in the comic. The decision to use two different artists is disheartening -- we get a taste of all the glorious EXTREMEness that Shatterstar could be, but what we really get is Villa's non-descript house style that's technically sound but lacks any real emotion or dynamism to it.

Fans of Shatterstar will likely be disappointed by the book. Instead of leaning into all the weird things that separated Shatterstar from the dozens of other muscular, blade-slinging, teeth-gritting heroes of the 1990s, Shatterstar strips it all away, leaving him a husk of the character he once was. Hopefully, the next issue of this comic features Shatterstar doing a little bit more stabbing and kicking and a little less of him figuring out how best to depreciate his real estate holdings in order to maximize his tax savings.

Published by Marvel Comics

On October 3, 2018

Written by Tim Seeley

Art by Carlos Villa, Gerardo Sandoval

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