The Plot of Volume One and Two of Shrapnel
Some say that all science fiction derivative, that there are no new ideas, and how the creator(s) mix the elements and their skills to reinvent these familiar themes and ideas, determines the results: either it is good cocktail or a hollow shell of limited imagination. Shrapnel is one of those works that does synthesize something more than its derivative original elements. In some ways, Shrapnel is a mixed cocktail of Gattaca, Starship Troopers, the Classics, Joan of Arc, the French and American Revolutions, and Mark Long's own experience in the US Army. The basic universe of Shrapnel in the 23rd century is also a good setup for the war between Venus and Terra, and you can really believe that Shrapnel is the world that first began in Gattaca. It is also nice to see a military sci-fi future war scenario being set in our own solar system, with a realistic issue that could trigger wars on other worlds. Our core character of Shrapnel is ex-Marine Sam Narayan, another female soldier character in military sci-fi, and she is a well-done female character that does not descend into trope territory until later in the first volume and does transfer some of traits of the Gattaca character of Vincent into Sam Narayan. The design of the world of Shrapnel is well done and this includes the Marine XO armored powered suits, making for some iconic images.
There can be no bigger crime committed against both volumes of the Shrapnel comics than the art. Plain and simple: the art, coloring, and the page layout cripples these comics (especially Volume One), preventing the comics from achieving the higher level that was desired by Radical and everyone else involved. Instead the art regates Volume One to an just "okay" comic with an interesting concept. While Aristeia Rising may have the stronger storyline and writing, it is plagued by this very dark, BLADE RUNNER-like inspirited art that lacks clarity and appears muted. The art and coloring is bad enough in more dialog-intensive scenes where the faces of our core characters are obscured by the shroud of darkness and blurry nearly watercolor profiles; it is even worse in the battle scenes. These exo-planet battles where the money-shot for the Shrapnel comics, paraded across the brilliant cover art in the original limited series, but in the actual pages of the comic, the art washes out any notion of intensity or grandeur, creating a darkly hued mess. This makes the first volume a painful and confusing to read and it also deeply betrays the much clearer concept art and the overall design of the world of Shrapnel. Another art team was hired for the second volume; Hubris, and while it is better than Volume One, it still is not good enough for what Radical Comics was hoping for. While everyone and everything is much more clear, and I can actually see the core characters faces, it still is lacking. However, Volume Two has greater problems than the art, as mentioned above.
Should You Read Shrapnel?
I was certainly disappointed in both Volume One and Two of Shrapnel to say the least, and I honestly wished I had not the spent money on these comics. In the long term, I do not believe that I will reread the comics in the near future., causing them to be placed, along with Marvel Comics Universal War One in the "to sell" pile. I would advise that if the story sounds interesting, read Volume One Aristeia Rising and forget Hubris, but don't pay too much for Aristeia Rising. I am hoping that a long-awaited film adaptation of Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising makes better use of the concept of the Shrapnel universe than the half-baked comics.
The Shrapnel and Oblivion Connection
Wasn't There Going to be an Shrapnel Movie and Video Game?!
In July of 2011, it was announced that Hillary Swank was going to star as Captain Sam Narayan along with being one of the producers of a major live-action film adaptation of the Shrapnel comic. The film was yet another feather in the cap for Radical Studios...but what has happened since 2011? A whole lot of nothing. There is simply no news on the Shrapnel film, and could be dead in the water. Why? My only guess is that it could be due to the disappointing box-office performance of the big military sci-fi film Edge of Tomorrow/Live, Die, Repeat. The studio could have seen the blood on the wall and decided to wait for more favorable conditions. It is likely that the Shrapnel movie could never be made. Which is a shame. Shrapnel could be a great military sci-fi film and the adaptation itself could have solved some of the issues with the comic itself.
What about the video game promised by a stunning CGI trailer by Zombie Studios? The very genesis of the comic was by Zombie Studios head Mark Long, and it was natural that he would develop a video game around the comic...but what happened to it? Once again, nothing. The big console military sci-fi game promised by Zombie was never developed in any tangible way before Zombie Studios folded up shop in 2014. There is little on the game that would have been developed for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC. However, one Shrapnel game was developed and released: the Shrapnel game for the iPhone/iPad. This was 3rd person shooter game have the gamer take control of Sam in her XO APS that was a more simplistic vision of the dark world that Sam operates in. The interviews were positive, but once again, when Zombie folded, it dooming the game to stagnation.
It is clear to all of us that lived through the wildfire that was Star Wars, that it altered the way movies and toys were made and what they made for. Like any game-changing event, there are some examples that ride the trend and profit from these events, and then there are examples like the LJN's 1984 DUNE toyline for that failed film. This failed toyline is one of the best-worst examples of how a toyline can be designed for a film that shouldn't have a toyline in the first place. Join FWS next time as we attempt to explore and explain the 1984 LJN DUNE toyline.