15th Dec2016

‘Hook Jaw #1′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Si Spurrier | Art by Conor Boyle | Published by Titan Comics

hookjaw1_01_cover-a

Titan, like most of us, clearly think you can never have enough sharks in popular entertainment, and have dusted down another very niche property. Hook Jaw was originally one of the stars of British weekly Action, one of the most legendary titles in British comics history. Action appeared in early 1976, the idea being to present something a little harder in tone than the current fare, and it became something of a sensation. Unfortunately, with echoes of the 1950′s and the attack on comics in the U.S then, the mainstream media launched an attack on the title and publishers IPC got cold feet and took it off sale. A much more vanilla title continued but soon disappeared. I actually remember reading an issue or two as my uncle collected British comics at the time.

Hook Jaw was the main star of the anthology title, and along with all the other strips was inspired by popular films and TV of the time. The inspiration for Hook Jaw of course was Jaws. The name Hook Jaw by the way, apart from sounding pretty cool, comes from the gaff hook stuck in the sharks jaw. So what made a strip about a shark essentially eating people any good? Well, the clever spin put on it was that Hook Jaw essentially only ate ‘bad’ people, criminals and enemies of the environment especially, and the strip managed to sneak in a nice little environmental message to the gory proceedings. So can 1970′s sharksploitation work in today’s more sophisticated times?

The first issue (of five) opens with us watching a group of marine scientists studying a group of female white sharks, to try and understand more about them. Oh, and there is the small matter of their boat being occupied by Somali pirates as they are off the coast of Somalia. The interaction with them is far more amusing than you would expect, certainly more mundane, and I especially enjoyed the Somali boy translator who pretends to tell the scientists useful information but is actually related to the pirates. The proceedings are doubly interrupted when U.S Navy S.E.A.L.S storm the boat, killing most of the pirates, in an equally amusing over the top gung-ho manner.

Once the S.E.A.L.S have secured the boat they, apart from irritating the crew immensely, try to locate two of their colleagues who never made it to the boat. Patching in to their comms and camera equipment, there is a lot of screaming and a lot of blood, and it becomes apparent that the group of great whites the scientists have been observing have an up to now unknown member, the far larger Hook Jaw. What’s more, Hook Jaw seems to be directing them in their attack on the two S.E.AL.S. Not good for the divers, but pretty good for the scientists, as it confirms their theory of co-operative behaviour in great whites.
This was very much a set up issue, introducing us to the setting, the human cast, and apart from some shark dialogue (seriously!) the star of the book doesn’t appear until the very end. Although events are influenced by the sharks, the actual main narrative will follow the human cast. We know what the marine scientists are doing, we know the Somali pirates are opportunists, but why exactly are the Americans sending special ops team out there? Just to fight pirates, or is there a more mysterious mission? That’ll have to wait.

This was a nice start to the book overall, some very humorous dialogue and character interaction especially. I wasn’t initially sure how this was going to work, but a promising start by scripter Si Spurrier, who has kept nicely to the spirit of the original strip. The art by Conor Boyle is also very good, not very flashy but solid layouts and panels. The covers and text pieces also add nicely to this first issue.

Looking forward to jumping into next month’s issue. Not literally, of course, I like my legs attached.

***½  3.5/5

Hook Jaw #1 is released on December 21st, courtesy of Titan Comics

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