Written by Si Spurrier | Art by Conor Boyle | Published by Titan Comics
If there’s one thing this book confirms, it’s that the appetite for sharks in any medium is still there. People still love a little chomping action it seems. Si Spurrier has been pretty clever by making Hook Jaw, the nominal star of the book, more of a catalyst for the plotlines rather than the central figure in them. We have a big jumble of ecology and politics, of marine biologists and Somali pirates, of the U.S Navy, the U.N, and the CIA. If there was a kitchen sink lying around I’m sure Si Spurrier would find something to throw it at.
If you’ve read up to issue 4 you’ll have a pretty good handle on what’s going on. The ‘deal’ struck between the marine scientists and the CIA/Navy, to extract some secret stuff in a container lying on the sea bed, didn’t quite work out and the scientists were dropped off in a remote spot where the hope was they would not be found again. Things are never so simple though. Firstly, the container ‘s cargo was missing, so who has it? Secondly, after a tip off, the worlds media, eco-activists, fishermen and shark hunters have all turned up. Most importantly though is the discovery that Hook Jaw and fellow Great Whites are not in that area by coincidence. It seems someone has been feeding them..
The issue kicks off with a little does of black humour, as one eco-activist and one scientist fall prey to the sharks, obviously there to ‘help’ them. Nature’s a bitch. or at least Hook Jaw is as we now know. The CIA/Navy SEALS plan is simple. The scientists will take a ransom payment to the Somali pirates to free their kidnapped colleague, while trying to get them to admit they have the secret container. The CIA will be listening in. Decent plan, but they didn’t take into account their translator, Liban, is actually working for the pirates and shops them all the first chance they get. The humour turns to seriousness as Spurrier kicks his story into gear.
The pirate leader is looking for his father, who learnt about the pirate ship and the secret container it contained, and went missing with it. He wants information, and to get it shows a particularly nasty trick he can do with some chopped off fingers and a hostage hanging on a hook over the sea. It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s pretty horrific. Conor Boyle shows he’s got a career as a horror book artist if he ever fancies it. Turns out the secret container contained some very high tech machinery, a gadget the Americans had been working on to try and turn back global warming. As one of the scientists pointed out, more interfering may be bad, but the Americans will do it anyway. While all this, Commander Klay has escaped and is bumping off as many pirates as he can. He ends up finding a room full of explosives, which means the next issue, the last one of this series, will get messy. Very messy.
I enjoyed this issue a lot, and I liked the way Si Spurrier subtly moved beyond the humour and deliberate stereotypes, to throw in some darkness and realism. The Somali pirates had been played for laughs in Issue 1, well no one’s laughing now. The undercurrent of environmentalism the original Hook Jaw strip advocated also pops up, in the form of a climate control mechanism. The greyness of it all is captivating too. Who is in the right? Are the Somali’s terrorists or freedom fighters? Are the Americans trying to save the world, or control it?
Hook Jaw, being a physical representation of nature, is being manipulated and used by both sides. Nature is the victim here, not the pirates or Americans. Lots of subtle interplay really nicely done. Conor Boyle’s part in all this is essential too, and he turns in perhaps his best art yet. Some especially grisly, gruesome panels are particularly well executed, and there is fittingly a fine splash page too.
A book that perhaps shouldn’t work is actually very fertile ground for a good writer and artist, and in Si Spurrier and Conor Boyle we have those. Fine work.
Hook Jaw #4 is out now from Titan Comics.