We are finally back with a review of the latest chapters of Shotgun Boy, Carnaby Kim and Hongpil’s newest webcomic!
Those of you who have not read my first article and introduction of the series, please check it out here before we dive-in with this new review.
Also, please be forewarned, the following article contains sensitive material such as:
**SPOILERS & POTENTIAL TRIGGERS (discussions of school shootings, gun violence, body horror, and other disturbing images. Reader discretion is advised.) **
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All right fam, let’s get that breeeaaadd!
Episode 5 picks up right where we left off in the previous episode: Gyunhwan coming back to consciousness after tumbling headfirst down a small ravine, where he finds himself a few paces away from an abandoned shotgun and crashed moving van. Slow paced and psychological, this entire chapter was riddled with visual cues that I believe are meant to foreshadow future plot points.
The chapter opens by showing us the overturned van, focusing on the name of the moving company, “Beaver Movers,” and continues with an individual panel of its cartoon beaver logo. Gyunhwan even wonders to himself what a moving van was doing out in the middle of nowhere. There is a deliberate emphasis placed on the van that should not go unnoticed. We do not know who was in the van, and the lack of a body suggests its driver and occupants could potentially be alive. Was it merely an accident that caused the vehicle to crash into the ravine or was there a violent altercation? Why was there an abandoned gun by the van? These are all questions that will be interesting to see answered as the story progresses. The intrigue surrounding the origins of this van are important, in the very least, and will likely have some bearing on the strange events of the plot. Whether the van is directly tied to the origins of the monsters or a major character who is yet to be revealed, it won’t be the last time it is mentioned.
As Gyunhwan moves to investigate the van’s storage compartment, he is startled by an ambient sound. It triggers his paranoia and turns into a full blown hallucination of his tormentor, Seongbin Yu, who had chased him into the woods. Gyunhwan, at the end of his rope, relentlessly shoots this vision of Seongbin dead before realizing it was merely a day dream. The episode then switches to a flashback sequence in which Gyunhwan is at an arcade with his friend, CrewCrew (a character from and reference to the related webcomic Sweet Home). It is here we are introduced to the immaculate precision of Gyunhwan’s shooting abilities, as he one-shot kills a horde of zombies, and come to realize the full extent of his rage. He has never played this shooting game before but is capable of achieving such accuracy by honing the pure hatred and suppressed rage in his heart. By imagining the zombies as his bullies, it is as if he suddenly becomes an expert marksman. The flashback and episode culminates in Gyunhwan spotting a case of 30 shells through the van’s broken windshield, to which he immediately registers as the perfect amount for killing his entire class plus teacher.
The consecutive hallucination to flashback sequence conveys the tumultuous landscape of Gyunhwan’s pysche. It provides us a more nuanced characterization of Gyunhwan by accessing to the darkest corners of his mind. On one hand, we are led to feel some sort of sympathy for him, as it is obvious his bullies have pushed him to such a point that he would even consider murder. However, we never actually see the entire class bully him. Even the moments of episode 0, when his teacher and classmates are idle bystanders to his pain, were fabrications of Gyunhwan. It is unclear whether Gyunhwan’s hatred for his whole class is justified, or if the resentment he holds toward his bullies have polluted his perception toward everything else in his life. It calls into question his morals and mental stability. Is there some part of Carby Kim that is setting Gyunhwan up to be an unreliable narrator? It is reasonable to assume that the driving force of his blinding anger may push him to take some unscrupulous actions in the chapters to come, perhaps setting up the arc of an anti-hero main character.
In episode 6, we cut back to the rest of the school attending the retreat’s talent show. The monsters, disguised as retreat security guards, trap the students and teachers within the gymnasium and begin their violent rampage. Previously, there were only hints of the monsters’ abilities, but this episode gives us full view of their terrifying power. They have tentacles-like appendages that sprout from all over their human-disguised bodies: out of the arms, the legs, the tongue, the forehead, etc. While some tentacles brutalize their prey (stabbing and slicing), the one positioned from the monsters’ forehead operates as a feeding tube, sucking out the brains of humans.
At the end of the episode, it is revealed that once a monster consumes a human’s brain, it gains the ability to shapeshift into the deceased human’s likeness. The monsters also seem to be quite selective about which humans they eat, only choosing those that meet a certain standard and killing off the ones they deem unworthy. One monster asks the human hostages who is wealthy and then proceeds to eats the brain of the poor student who answered. It remarks “I want to be rich,” and shifts to resemble the dead student. What the monsters’ exact motives remain a mystery, but it’s clear it isn’t to indiscriminately kill humankind. While human brains are their fuel, to abate their hunger isn’t their sole drive. Based on their selectivity, I think their greater plans involve some level of integration into human society. They want to blend in for some reason, but blend in with the upper crust of society.
The psychology of the monsters is further illuminated with Shinyeong Kang’s confrontation. Shinyeong the school outcast who, like Gyunhwan, is also a bully victim. Unlike him, however, she is cool and collected, acting largely indifferent to what her classmates think of her. She plans to attack the monsters, baiting them to approach her while readying her hidden switchblade. The leader of the monsters catches onto her plan and approaches her, changing his appearance from a security guard to the face of a young man we’ve never seen before. He threatens to break her neck.
Before it can kill Shinyeong, another monster that had taken the image of Mira Han, a student who bullied and hated Shinyeong, stops it. The monster speaks of how much Mira hated her when she was alive, and how it, too, holds much hatred for Shinyeong. From these interactions we can garner monsters are not only able to take on their preys’ human appearance, but their thoughts and emotions as well. If monsters adapt to human behavior and thought through the process of eating people’s brains, then it is possible this is the reason why monsters are selective with who they eat. Perhaps they acquire some human desires as well, such as greed and lust for power. It begs the question: does a monster integrate a human’s personality after it eats them? Do they also acquire preferences as to what human form to take? Is that why the monster’s leader changes its appearance, almost as if it has adopted a true form?
Shinyeong’s life is spared with the sudden reappearance of Gyunhwan. His plan to kill his bullies and classmates is put on hold when he realizes there is something amiss. He is temporarily immobilized as a monster charges toward him, but shoots it dead when the monster’s taunts triggers his anger. The following episode shows Gyunhwan’s shot in slow motion. It doesn’t look like a normal bullet firing; there seems to be something special about it. A multitude of tiny green pellets explode into the monster’s body and causes some sort of fatal chemical reaction. The monsters react with uncertainty for the first time, their alarm made clear as they refer to the shotgun as “that gun.” I was immediately reminded of the mysterious moving van in the woods and all the questions surrounding its origins. The gun, for some reason, has the power to defeat the monsters. Whoever originally owned the gun and the truck may yet reveal the origins of these monsters and what they are trying to accomplish.
What ensues is utter chaos. Shinyeong uses the momentary distraction to strike and rally the other students. The monsters continue to fight Gyunhwan who takes them on in stride. He manages to land a few more shots, one which hits a monster in its arm. Before the special bullet can take full effect, however, another monster chops the infected arm off, saving its comrade. Whatever the bullet does, it seems it has to spread throughout the monsters’ entire body before it proves fatal. The leader of the monsters orders them to stop and retreat for now. One of the monsters attacking Gyunhwan blows black mist from its lungs as cover for their escape, another mysterious power of many more to be revealed.
Finally, episode 9 ends with a scene change to Seongbin at a clearing overlooking the gymnasium. He has found his way out of the woods and a path back to the retreat. But before he can move, we see someone standing behind him: a figure obscured in shadow.
Overall, chapters 5-9 were fun to read. Carnby Kim is a master of suspense and always ends his chapters with tensions running high. Shotgun Boy is very much in the early stages of its story, so the narrative is still in its expository stage with the set up of arcs for later chapters. It will be interesting to see how Gyunhwan’s character develops; I, for one, hope there will be more exploration of his psyche and hope to see him pushed down the route of an anti-hero.
Shinyeong’s character arc is one that I am slightly apprehensive about. Right now, she’s presented as the girl who is essentially only being bullied because she’s cool and pretty. My hope is that there will be more explanation of her backstory and motivations, something that will reveal her complexity rather than only focusing on her air of aloofness.
Again, the story is still setting up its premise, but I think it shows a lot of promise to be a truly thrilling horror comic! For those of you who haven’t read it yet and are interested, you can read chapters 0-9 on Webtoon for free! Episodes 10-12 are available with the purchase of coins. Shotgun Boy updates every Thursday.
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T. Wu is a contributing writer at All Ages of Geek. You can follow T. on Instagram @kata_the_clown.