Shrapnel: Hubris (1-3, Radical Comics) is the second chapter of the sci-fi Shrapnel Trilogy, following Shrapnel: Aristeia Rising. If you did not read the first part of the trilogy, do so because it is a far stronger, stand alone chapter than Hubris. Shrapnel follows the complex socio-political dynamics of interplanetary domination. The Solar Alliance is the new political infrastructure in a future where humanity has colonized all the planets of the solar system. They use aggressive military tactics to take over these planets, usually at the expense of the civilizations inhabiting the planets. The last free planet, Venus, is under siege by Marines. A defected military officer, Samantha “Sam” Vijaya, makes the decision to side with the Venusian rebels. In Aristeia, Sam’s rise to notoriety and authority as a war hero is shaped, while simultaneously delving into Sam’s emotional and psychological struggles while undertaking this challenge.
Hubris follows Sam’s story further as she decides to take more aggressive actions against the Solar Alliance by attacking a colony on the Moon. She leads a strategic mission that destroys an Alliance fuel reservoir resulting in social, political, and financial consequences. Along the way, Sam is forced to make allegiances with factions of dubious moral standing in order to gather sufficient fire power against the Alliance’s Marine might.
Written by Nick Sagan and Clinnette Minnis, Hubris lacks the flow that Aristeia possessed. Aristeia had all the gravitas of a Greek myth: an imperial force invades and conquers the foreign land and a lone figure rises from the past to overcome her personal adversity and become a legend in her victory over the invading force. Hubris attempted to take that allegory further by examining the repercussions of pride and what it has done to the Solar Alliance after it under-estimated Sam as leader of the rebellion. Hubris also explores Sam’s own morality, her struggles with her religious past, and the fate she believes will be hers because of the sacrifices she has made.
The subtext was very engaging and layered but it was drowned out by the extended philosophical and strategic ramblings across the issues. Some of the issues were made so explicit that the dialogue complicated the story rather than making it clearer. Also, the tapestry of supporting characters was expanded; some of these were interesting, while others seemed extraneous.
Some of the character artwork, provided by Concept Art House, was monotonous making it difficult to distinguish one character from another and therefore follow how the characters related to each other. Even Sam’s character development took a hit. Space was set aside to illustrate her backstory and emotional struggles but often these observations seemed out of focus with the rest of the story. One nightmare sequence in issue #3 in particular was revealing. But you rarely felt her emotional struggles while in the midst of planning or conducting an attack. It was difficult to understand which decisions she made caused her the most angst. Lastly, the covers, while capturing the essence of war and combat, started off strong but eventually lost their attractiveness. Covers that showed the faces of war were far more introspective and compelling (issue #1 and 2) than those that showed warships and soldiers canvassing wreckage. Let’s hope that the conclusion to the Shrapnel trilogy regains the form of the great mythology sagas it has been trying to emulate.