What I thought of Hook Jaw #5

After the penultimate issue we arrive at the climax of this revived series of Hook Jaw as it draws to a close and finally delivers the blood and gore it’s teased throughout its short run. To recap; the baddie Somalian pirates and the baddie Americans have all kidnapped, threatened and tortured each other and the rapidly depleting band of environmentalists are stuck in the middle of a power-play that threatens the world.

Writer Si Spurrier manages to tie things up in a nice little bow and in the grand Hook Jaw tradition there’s only one character out of the main cast who survives to presumably tell the tale of Hook Jaw and what it is. Hook Jaw now isn’t just a slavering eating machine but a figure of folk mythology bordering on the supernatural as well as being an eating machine. As a series it lacked a certain bite for gorehounds, but managed to beef up the actual character of Hook Jaw which is something of an achievement.

So overall a good solid mini-series that now its introduced the concept to a new generation of readers moves onto greater things, assuming of course that Titan continues to publish stories.

What I thought of Hook Jaw #4

As of last issue the body count for this series has been not just low, but relatively bloodless. Not so here as Hook Jaw is turning into a very different sort of comic. It could have taken the blood and guts approach (and when there is gore and violence it is pretty extreme) but choose instead to take a more political, even measured (as much as is possible in a comic mainly about a giant man-eating Great White shark) approach. This issue sees the focus switch to the Somali pirates who have captured our group of protagonists which for at least one of them means a very messy end at the teeth of Hook Jaw herself.

There’s also a clunking great MacGuffin that everyone is looking for which if found can either save the world or destroy it, in the wrong hands of course. It is a tad clunky but it is purely there to drive the plot ahead. The real meat here is in the twisting turns of a plot that’s ramping up the stakes so that the world itself is at risk. Not bad for a series about a shark.

As always Si Spurrier turns in a good script that’s smarter on a second read, and Connor Boyle’s restrained style means it isn’t just a gorefest or tedious talking heads. As a series this is one of the best things Titan have published though the cruel amongst us say that isn’t a high benchmark which would be unfair as Hook Jaw is a fine comic.

Happy birthday 2000AD

40 years ago this week I had in my hands the first issue of a new weekly boy’s adventure comic called 2000AD. It had a shite free gift as was the way with comics back then.

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The first issue featured Flesh!, a story about time-travellers coming from the future to harvest dinosaurs to help feed the future population’s desire for meat which was eagerly lapped up by me who’d lapped up the gore-soaked pages of Action. Excitement had been built up for some time as after all, Action had been neutered, and thanks to some gloriously cheesy adverts I was dying to get my hands on 2000AD.

It may look cheesy to jaded 21st century eyes but this was brilliant and along with thousands of other kids we enjoyed the first issue, and looked forward to the second which promised a new strip called Judge Dredd which surely couldn’t be as fun as Flesh! or as bizarre as the revamped Dan Dare which was no longer tired and old, but a bit disco.Whatever it was, it looked like no other comic out there in 1977.

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Of course Judge Dredd was an instant favourite as what boy wouldn’t love an ultra-violent fascist as a role model?

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1977 was a transformational year for the UK as the Queen’s silver jubilee rubbed against the growth of the Punk movement, while in the background Thatcherism bubbled away Sauron-like waiting for its moment to strike. Thanks to Pat Mills (who acted as father and midwife to 2000AD) Punk was very much written into the DNA of 2000AD and new, younger artists like Mick McMahon epitomised that new ethic.

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The Golden Age of 2000AD lasted years. For me the first 500 issues are brimming with creativity and I can’t think of a comic ever published that was so consistent in what was still basically children’s comics.

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Yet as I got older I drifted from 2000AD, especially in the 1990’s when the comic published some utter shite like Mark Millar’s Robo-Hunter. Possibly some of the worst comics I’ve ever read. In the 90’s the comics seemed burdened with bad editorial decisions or more realistically, the editors in the latter part of the 1990’s didn’t have a clue how to do their jobs hence why the comic came close to extinction.

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Yet it was saved thanks to Rebellion who cleared out the baggage, stripped the comic back to something it was previously and was left facing the 21st century looking positive. 2000ad2000 So happy birthday 2000AD. You’ve seen me through most of my life and in your own way have helped shape it and all the bad days are hopefully behind you now, and here’s hoping for another 40 years of thrills.

What I thought of Hook Jaw #3

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Last issue saw the plot thicken, and this one sees it becoming a gloopy soup as those familiar with Si Spurrier’s Crossed +100 run will spot the similarities. Both are weaving massive mysteries. Both have a quirky, satirical edge and both built up to short, sharp incidents of horror which is where we are in Hook Jaw #3 from Titan Comics as Spurrier racks up the tension, as well as the scale of the story, towards something far bigger than what one would have expected from the first issue, or indeed, the history of the character who up til now has been mainly to eat people in as many bloody ways a psychotic Great White shark can.

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This issue sees our core cast of environmentalist scientists, Somali pirates and CIA operatives joined by Greenpeace (not actually called Greenpeace here) activists and the media and more and more bodies keep getting lined up for a potential bloodbath. In this issue though there’s only one big death at the teeth of Hook Jaw, and it’s a pretty chilling one too, but we’ve been spared the gorefests of the Action strips so far as Spurrier slowly builds up his cast as well as why are there strange bones on an island off the coast of Somalia and who exactly has been feeding Hook Jaw with animals?

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This isn’t as fast paced as the original Action strips. After all they had to cram as much as possible into four or five pages to keep plucky British kids coming back next week for their diet of severed heads and mutilation. The monthly format is a slower burn, but this is still a surprisingly good, somewhat political, book about a pissed off giant shark.

The closest thing we have to a documentary about Action

Action is the legendary British comic that was essentially the precursor of 2000AD thus cementing its history as one of the most influential comics ever published in the UK. With 2000AD being 40 this year, and Action celebrating its 40th anniversary last year we’re getting further and further away from an important piece of comics history.

Imagine then my joy at stumbling across a number of videos on You Tube with interviews from Jack Adrian, Ramon Sola and Pat Mills. It looks as if an Action documentary was being made but these tantalising wee snippets are all we have of it which is a shame as it really is a piece of comics history which needed documenting like this.With Titan Comics publishing new Hook Jaw comics it seems relevant to document this now for the next generations. I’ve included in this blog all the clips I could find but if anyone finds or knows more feel free to point it out on the comments.

What I thought of Hook Jaw #2

hookjaw-2Turning a comic about a killer Great White Shark into something more than just a gloriously gory cavalcade of body parts and spurting red ocean spray is a massive task, but in issue 2 of Titan Comics Hook Jaw, Si Spurrier has pulled off a rather astonishing trick in making a comic ostensibly about people being eaten in interesting ways into one about folk myth and of course people being eaten in interesting ways.

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We pick this issue up after the first issue with the environmentalist crew and CIA operatives off the coast of Somalia trying to rescue a MacGuffin from the sea while an Amanda Waller secret service operative type barks orders to 2D military machismo stereotypes that are dropped in to provide a contrast to the lead character, Maggie, who in a throwback to the classic 1970’s Action strips, is a reluctant protagonist in a story where things are being set up to end very, very badly for all concerned.In some cases characters are there so we cheer for when Hook Jaw gets to do their worst to them and I love that.

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The other thing that’s a hard task is giving Hook Jaw a personality of her own, and that’s something Spurrier does menacingly well as we see how her appetite for flesh and blood is not just insatiable, but is all that drives her on to be the wild card in this stand-off between environmentalist hippies, the CIA and Somalian pirates.

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Spurrier’s script is splendid, but it is the meta aspect of the tale that raises this series beyond the predictable fun from the horror and gore we expect, and Connor Boyle’s art is excellent as he has to struggle with not just making people talking on boats seem interesting, but drawing lots of sharks in a way that gives them an individuality is an achievement. Overall this is building up to be a surprisingly fun, and even more intellectually challenging work than just watching people being eaten, though that too is something to look forward to for gore fans.

What I thought of Hook Jaw #1

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I loved Action when I was a kid.and like any sensible child I lapped up the gory thrills of Hook Jaw, the star of the comic which happened to be a vicious man-eating shark. Writer Pat Mills managed to capture young minds easily and now in the last days of 2016 comes Si Spurrier and Conor Boyle’s revamp courtesy of Titan Comics and their tale of a group of scientists held hostage by some pretty crap Somalian pirates.

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These pirates are essentially just fodder for a rescuing group of American navy SEALS and of course, Hook Jaw, whose presence is teased for much of this first issue.

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And all this first issue is really is about Spurrier setting up a cast of mainly disposable characters who’ll be eaten, or horribly killed by the gang of sharks who by the end of the first issue have already started chomping through a disposable cast of Navy SEALS.

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Hook Jaw is a gloriously fun revamp of a character mainly middle aged men look back at fondly. It isn’t too complex, but this doesn’t matter as its all about the creeping menace and of course, a giant man-eating shark that doesn’t give a fuck about who it eats. Welcome back Hook Jaw!