It’s a comic about a killer shark with a harpoon stuck in its jaw, and it’s based on a British comic from the 70’s that was notorious enough to be banned from newsstands. While that information alone may be enough for a reader to determine if “Hookjaw” is for them, it’s also worth mentioning that this is written by Simon Spurrier. Veteran of “X-Men: Legacy,” “X-Force,” current writer of “Star Wars: Doctor Aphra,” and “The Dreaming,” with several memorable creator-owned projects under his belt like “The Spire” and “Angelic,” he’s very much not the type to deliver a straightforward killer shark tale.
Which is why it’s focused on Mag, a research student who spends most of her days up to her arms in fishgore helping her salty professor track a school of female sharks in the pirate-infested waters of Somalia. The “pirate-infested” part isn’t hyperbole as they’re there to greet Mag upon her return to the ship, who are soon followed by some Navy S.E.A.L.S. and their leader Clay to make a bad situation worse. Now Mag, along with hapless, sanctimonious white knight Jasper, and Liban, the cook who barely tolerates them all, have to work with the C.I.A. to get back a device the organization lost.
Naturally this will take them all into Hookjaw’s path and just about everyone I mentioned in the paragraph above will either be partially or fully consumed by the killer shark by the story’s end. While Spurrier can sometimes get so focused on the message of his story that he forgets to tell a good tale within the confines of the genre that he’s tweaking, I’m glad to say that’s not the case here. He knows that above all else this story is meant to be about a giant shark that eats people and the goods are delivered in that regard courtesy of some appropriately (and sometimes just) rough and grizzled art from Conor Boyle.
Where Spurrier stumbles is in being a bit too obvious about some of the conventions he’s trying to subvert. Characters like Jasper and Clay are familiar types in that they’re the sensitive ecologist and tough-as-nails military commando, yet the writer essentially wrenches them into being a walking billboard for white sanctimony and privilege, and a testosterone-fueled psycho, respectively. Keeping Mag the most sympathetic member of the cast was probably Spurrier’s smartest move since we can relate to her exasperation at having to deal with all these loudmouthed, gun-toting psychos.
If I’m being completely honest, however, the on-the-nose aspects of how this cast is characterized aren’t as annoying as they could have been. Mainly because it renders them more distinctive than if they had been played to type in this killer-shark story. I’ll also concede that the level of subtlety on display here is perfectly appropriate considering the nature of the title character as well. Recommended for those looking for a decent killer shark story and aren’t too picky about the ways in which it tries to put a fresh spin on it.