Score: 95+/100 (9.5+ out of 10)
Fractured Shards is an impressive and compelling comic/graphic novel hearkening back to the root of all comics: detective and crime stories.
This book is one in a series following Detective Sebastian Vetro in a dystopian city full of crime, depravity, and corruption. Detective Sebastian (called “Seb” by those close to him) is, by all intents and purposes, an absolute badass with a heart of gold.
Yes, he's a bit rough around the edges, rude, and forceful, but his intentions are clearly in the right. He is a genuinely good and well-meaning man living in a world of evil and bad intentions. His existence is contrasted with the rest of his world which seems artificial, fake, and deceptive. Sebastian is surrounded by terrible things and terrible people, it haunts his mind so much so that he is forced to attend therapy sessions (by the lovely therapist named Catherine) by order of the magistrate.
Another thing to note about Sebastian is that he seems to have some sort of ESP or psychic power in which he sees flashes or the titular “shards” of different crimes involving the victims, the perpetrators, and the evidence. This particularly haunts his dreams, although he does experience these flashes in the moment from time to time.
This book starts off with a bang (literally). We are introduced to our protagonist and hero, Sebastian, as he is undercover scoping out a suspected murderer at a strip club. Like a true badass, he ignores the admonishing of his codec-like device that keeps telling him to wait for authorization and evaluation before acting, and instead acts independently to solve the problem. We learn that the man whom Sebastian is scoping out has murdered a 7-year-old girl and still has the audacity to walk away and celebrate at a friend's birthday party afterward. Sebastian puts a bullet in his head for good measure, a satisfying ending to a reprehensible person and a phenomenal start to this thrilling book!
After that introduction, a lot of the rest of this book concerns Sebastian investigating and hunting down the killer of a woman named Belle Lin, someone said to have aristocratic ties to an elite group called the Council of Lights.
We are soon introduced to the villainous Leo, a member of the Council of Lights who is also cybernetically enhanced. Leo's cockiness and entitled attitude is sure to get on the reader's nerves, which serves its purpose.
This also introduces us to the hierarchical and corrupt nature of the world in which Sebastian and these other characters live. Despite being talented and hard-working, Sebastian (and most of the other characters) is a “dweller”--the book's name for peasants or common folk. They are treated as lesser than people favored by the Council of Light.
This leads to some of the dilemmas and conundrums in this book including Sebastian's difficulties in getting incriminating information out of Leo, a sub-councillor with special protections.
While the plot of this book is rather simplistic, involving a lot of story elements we've seen before, it is still very clever in a lot of other ways. One such way is the humor. This book is incredibly sly and funny sometimes.
For example, when one of Sebastian's nephews asks him what a hooker is, he tells the boy that “a hooker is a girl who is your friend” after which the boy goes off to tell that to all his friends at school.
Another example is when Sebastian barges in on a couple having sex, insisting on questioning them about the murder then and there, saying, “now works for me.” At a separate point, several pages later, one of those characters comes back and interrupts a new murder investigation, saying, “now works for me.”
The writing is mostly good. There are a few cheesy parts like when a party goer says he'll party like it's his birthday. There is also a time when “probable suspect” is written as “probability suspect.” However, we almost thought that might be intentional given that the world of this book is very mechanical and mathematical.
Sebastian is a pretty well-fleshed out character, especially having spent less than a hundred pages with him. You can see what makes him “tick.” There are things that piss him off, and there are things that make him smile. We get very good character moments like when he laughs and smiles when greeting his sister and nephews, then engages in an intense standoff with his father, with whom he clearly has a strained relationship. We also see that all the trauma, violence, and death he has experienced in his line of work has affected him as he struggles through his therapy session. He even has his own unique phrase: “Cazzo” which he kinda uses as a cuss word in place of “shit” or “crap.”
Another thing that is impressive in this book is that, for a comic book, the art in here is solid to great! This might edge out other comic books this season in terms of sheer illustration quality.
One thing to keep in mind that this book is very adult, featuring a lot of sex and violence, so it it not appropriate for young people.
One last thing to note is that this book leaves us on a promising cliffhanger with the mystery of another, unsolved “DARK CASE” hanging over us.
This book was a team effort including Dan Feurriegel, Stephen Kok, Riccardo Faccini, and Shaun Keenan.
Check it out on Amazon!