Finally after my fifth revisit through all the pages of Rakshak I think I am in a position to critique this awesome piece of comic book writing by Shamik Dasgupta. It took me some time as I didn’t want to be hasty with my words or thoughts. At the outset I would like to say this is one of his best works and which on first glance, may seem an average fast read is actually a social commentary of our times, along with some clever genre-busting shots on one of the most endearing takes of a superhero type, which is a “human mortal” with no special superpowers, who takes on himself to right wrongs and fight against injustice. In my book, if I had to pick the best of these heroes I would go for Batman, Daredevil and Punisher. Bruce Wayne – the boy who lived with his guilt and blame; Matt Murdoch- the boy who made his blindness his strength and Frank Castle – the army man who believes in taking a bad guy out forever.
Now, suppose you combine the best traits of each of these characters and build a hero- you get Captain Aditya Shergill. The way his character has been fleshed out layer by layer through some unique set pieces, sometimes amidst the din of a terrorist firefight in Kashmir or a flirtatious liaison with a pretty stranger on train or verbal tete-e-tete with his sibling or bonding with his niece or a fierce street fight with hoodlums is simply superb.
The story begins with an attack on a Lashkar hideout by MARCOS to eliminate a terrorist mastermind. A set-piece – which seemingly everyone would view as a run of the mill introduction for our hero turns out to be an eye – opening exercise for the discernible reader, when he realizes that the Indian Army is as dirty and cruel as the terrorists, whom they kill. There are some gut-wrenching tough moments, where you hold your breath and you turn a page and are horrified to see that our heroes can stoop to any levels to fulfil a military objective. It punches you hard as there is this complex interplay of myriad motives amongst these army men, a couple of whom believe ends justify means while some cling on to their shred of sanity of nobility that good is good and evil is evil. What is more striking is that by the end of the violent prelude you don’t get to take a step forward with Captain Shergill. He is a cardboard cut-out hero still… but the genius of the first few pages is the sweeping oscillating emotions of a boy belonging to the terrorist camp who watches his family being massacred yet somehow tries to cling on to his innocence till the end. That’s the revelation!! And once you get to grasp these character study you become aware that you are reading something infinitely special.