Despite being a little off the pace, as the series finished a few months ago, and not 2000AD, Luke argues it gets in here by the fact that it’s from a direct ancestor of the prog’, and it was created by the “Flesh” team of Pat Mills and Ramon Sola. Plus Si Spurrier was a long term contributor to the prog. Finally, Luke is providing the labour, so has the right 🙂
by Simon Spurrier, Conor Boyle, Giulia Brusco & Rob Steen
Review by Luke Williams
Titan Publishing have strong links to the Prog’. ‘Twas they who began the whole reprint album thing back in the early eighties and have maintained strong connections to 2000ad since, basically by repackaging a selection of the cream of the Prog’s output ever since.
Interestingly, the boot is now on the other foot. Titan had begun a programme of creating new stories from old British comics properties. It began this with Johnny Red : The Hurricane, by Garth Ennis and Keith Page (reviewed here), which I loved. But now that Rebellion have bought the rights to these properties, what does this mean for the Titan programme? Who can tell? “Dan Dare” written by Peter Milligan is up next, but there is a veritable goldmine of characters and strips that could be revived.
But back to “Hookjaw”.
“Hookjaw” debuted in the British weekly comic “Action” in the mid 70s, the demise of which has been detailed elsewhere, but was famed for its’ violence and was effectively its’ downfall. The titular shark, named for the fishing gaffe protruding through its’ lower jaw, travelled the world’s oceans as an omnipresent threat stumbling onto humans’ schemes, disputes and puts a spanner in their works, just by being a shark. Kind of like the old TV show “The Littlest Hobo” if the dog, the star of that programme, was actually a 30ft long fish with a taste for human flesh.
Set off the coast of Somalia, a group of scientists are studying a group of sharks known as the Virgin Brides, known for their age and seemingly because they have not spawned.
Intercepted by Pirates and one of their number taken hostage, they are rescued by US Navy SEALS, working with the CIA to recover a mysterious package at their location. But members of the various conflicting parties begin to go missing, and it soon becomes clear that Hookjaw and the Virgin Brides are picking them off as they bicker amongst themselves.
Spurrier is a great writer with a talent for sharp dialogue. But here he does tend to stoop to cliche with his characters. We have the gung-ho American seal, the hippy, wishy washy dolphin hugging environmentalist, the foulmouthed brash Australian. They are all bit one note. Perhaps that is deliberate, to evoke an action movie atmosphere. But of what I have read of the original Hookjaw ( and I’ll confess, I haven’t read everything), it misses the point. The original strip was anything but subtle, but had a “schlocky” feel to it rather than something off the Jerry Bruckheimer production line. Deviating from the original strip, Spurrier has added dialogue for Hookjaw, denoted by speech bubbleless pidgin English – like the Joker in Morrison & McKean’s “Arkham Asylum”, or the Beast in Miller & Sienkiewicz’s “Elektra :Assassin”. It doesn’t add much to the overall story and wasn’t necessary.
There are some neat touches. Easter eggs refer to past creators, the scientists’ ship is named the “Sola”, the nearby rig is the “Armstrong” after a previous writer. It all goes a bit meta when they introduce “Action” itself and its’ “Hookjaw” story, explaining that the shark had become so legendary that he inspired a comic strip.
Unfortunately, the art lets it down. I’ve not come across Conor Boyle before. His art is competent, but sadly not inspiring and his characters are ill defined. It needed more scratchiness, more detail, and certainly more atmosphere.
Titan have delivered on the back matter. Two pages per issue on sharks or the development of the strip. Hopefully when this strip is collected the back matter will be part of the bundle., fascinating and educational.
Reading this episodically, I didn’t care for it. But, completist that I am, I was determined to get every issue. I’m glad I did. Read as a whole it’s better, but it’s not essential. Might be worth it if you see it cheap somewhere, but don’t rush out.