Shutterbox Vol. 1

By Tavisha and Rikki Simons
160 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

I’ve been a fan for quite a while of Studio Tavicat—the umbrella name often used by creators Tavisha and Rikki Simons—so it’s no small surprise that I’ve been hearing about ShutterBox for a while. I’d just about given up hope on ever seeing this particular project, especially when the original venue never happened, when seemingly out of nowhere, ShutterBox Volume 1 appeared. After reading the book, I realized that having things just appear like objects out of a dream or a vision is really more apt than I initially thought…

On the eve of her high school graduation, Megan Amano watched a fully-clothed man walk into the ocean, seemingly drowning himself. Or did he? Megan’s not sure, and the mysterious figure is still haunting her dreams, something that her therapist seems intensely interested in. When one dream seems more realistic than ever, though, Megan quickly discovers that she and her camera are definitely doing more than just dreaming these days.

The first of six volumes, ShutterBox Volume 1 could best be described as a bit rambling. When you’re writing a book about dream worlds and inspirational muses, though, this is perfect. There’s a real dreamlike manner about the book, something that seems easy in concept to get across but is often quite difficult. The secret is something that Tavisha and Simons put on display here; dreams may appear random, but should have an underlying logic that you’re almost grasping, missing that one vital piece of information. Except, of course, here our protagonist might be able to stick around to put it all together. She’s already starting to figure out things regarding the world of Merridiah, and the hints of things to come are pretty tantalizing. What is the spirit in Megan’s camera? Why is someone’s conscience exiled into a different body? There are some theories out there, but hey, we do have five more volumes. There’s easily enough setup just in this first volume to sustain the rest of the series, but somehow I think that Tavisha and Simons have a lot more surprises in store for us as well.

Tavisha’s characters (aided with Simon’s graytones) have a nice fusion of Eastern and Western sensibilities. With long arms and legs, one can almost see them unfold on the page with sharp lines accentuated with soft interiors. Tavisha uses a minimum of lines here, defining them by their edges and letting Simons take over on the interior. It’s an interesting look and one that works quite well in black and white. There’s a great versatility in Tavisha’s art as well, switching from normal walks on the beach to skeletal scarecrows in the blink of an eye. The one real constant here is that at any given moment, everyone always looks fashionable. It’s not something that I’d say about most artists, putting Tavisha in the ranks of artists like Jill Thompson and Chynna Clugston-Major who really think through a character’s wardrobe to make sure that it looks just as good (and in place) as everything else in the story.

This is a really nice opening story for ShutterBox; it’s got just the right hints of mystery, intrigue, and romance all tied into a neat package that I can’t help but think that this is going to do really well. Earlier in the week I saw a bunch of younger readers flipping through copies of ShutterBox at a local chain bookstore and they all seemed enthralled. If this isn’t a big hit, I’ll be awfully surprised. I know they’ve got me on board for five more books, that’s for certain. Well done.

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