Sunday, March 24, 2013

Shutterbug Follies

by Jason Little

Having read and enjoyed Jason Little's second 'Bee' graphic novel, Motel Art Improvement Service, about a year ago, I set out to find his first book featuring his nosy young heroine.

Shutterbug Follies is a quick-paced a romp, but it is also a much more inconsistent graphic novel with more than a few problems that were never properly explained.

We are rather quickly introduced to Bee, an intelligent eighteen year old who works at a photo developing shop (this book came out in 2002, when I guess people still actually had film in their cameras and developed it).  Bee likes to keep copies of the stranger photos she develops, and shares them with her best friend, who is only a slight presence in the book.  One day, a man named Oleg Khatchatourian comes in asking for his pictures to be developed, and he warns Bee that they might be a little grisly.

As it turns out, Khatchatourian is a well-known fine arts photographer who specializes in Weegee-like portraits of recently murdered people.  For some reason, Bee becomes a little obsessed with him, and starts researching everything she can about his life.  She discovers that his wife was recently killed in an accident involving a hansom cab, and so Bee is off to prove that Khatchatourian is really her killer.  Through a series of unbelievable coincidences, she becomes friendly with Khatchatourian's assistant, and a cab driver who is happy to help her trail the guy.

Eventually, Bee discovers that Khatchatourian has ties to the Russian mafia, and that his wife was poisoning their son in a Munchausen by proxy scenario that goes nowhere.  Likewise, she discovers that the artist's assistant is a peeping tom, but that goes nowhere either.  Most difficult to understand is why Khatchatourian would need to have photos developed at her shop, seeing as he has a completely operational darkroom in his two-story apartment, along with an assistant whose only job is to develop his pictures.

It was these kinds of inconsistencies which really drew me out of the story.  Also, Bee's character is not developed very much at all - had I not known who she was from the second book, I'd have found it hard to care at all about the character in this book.  Little's art is nice, but the story needed a lot more work.

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