Best Shots Review: HOOK JAW #1 'A Surprisingly Tense Horror Piece'

"Hook Jaw #1" preview
Credit: Conor Boyle/Giulia Brusco (Titan Comics)
Credit: Conor Boyle/Giulia Brusco (Titan Comics)

Hook Jaw #1
Written by Si Spurrier
Art by Conoro Boyle and Giulia Brusco
Lettering by Rob Steen
Published by Titan Comics
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

Anybody that has grown up in a place that is close to the right kind of coastline will be used to tales of shark attacks. After all, humans tend to go swimming in their habitat and a bit of slaughter in the water is inevitable. Si Spurrier’s tale takes a dip into similar waters that everything from Jaws to The Shallows has swum in, but gives it the unique spin of including Somali pirates, the United States Navy and the CIA for a surprisingly tense horror piece.

Credit: Conor Boyle/Giulia Brusco (Titan Comics)

Somewhere off the coast of Somalia, a group of scientists are attempting to study the potential pack behavior of female great white sharks. However, on returning to their vessel, they not only discover a group of Somali pirates, but a more pressing threat of U.S. Navy SEALs who are even more bloodthirsty than a pack of sharks. What begins as a simple scientific expedition soon reveals itself to be a multi-layered narrative that gives us no easy answers in this first issue.

This is what elevates Hook Jaw above its contemporaries. Spurrier’s fascinating setup concentrates on world-building in this first issue, and scientist Mag is an understated gem of a character. In fact, aside from some fairly didactic conversations, somewhat expected in a exposition issue, Spurrier’s characters are well-rounded with one exception. There’s an Australian scientist who is written with so many masked expletives that it was impossible to tell their origin, let along get the flow of their dialogue, until the former is explicitly pointed out. Yet on the other hand, the young Somali kitchen hand Liban has such a great casual sense of humor that the Australian is quickly sidelined anyway.

Credit: Conor Boyle/Giulia Brusco (Titan Comics)

Boyle and Brusco’s art is a large part of what makes this world work straight off the bat, weaving Rob Steen’s letters into the waves for what can only be described as “shark speak” with phrases like “WRONG FLESH” occurring at specific junctures. With Brusco keeping the color palette a muted series of shades, when there’s blood in the water the redness and horror of it all stand out as if they were appearing against a white background. Action is tightly panelled, keeping a steady pace throughout the issue.

Like the best shark tales, the creative team manage to keep the beasties off the page for the majority of the action. It is the hint, and those shark speak whispers, that keep the engagement happening throughout. Yet if it was simply a shark horror story, it wouldn’t hook us for the next issue, which is something Hook Jaw surely does. Spurrier gives us just enough detail from the other story elements he introduces throughout the issue to make the reader question what lurks beneath the surface, and it seems that giant great white sharks may be the least of their potential problems.

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