Oh, Sharky, what big teeth you have. The better to thrill you with, my dear. It doesn't get much more outrageously fun than Sharky!
Ever read something that is so silly, so madcap and absurd and overwhelmingly goofy, that the story sometimes threatens to bound out of control? The kind of book where all the madness spills over from the story into the storytelling and occasionally makes the story in a graphic novel a bit hard to follow? That, my friends, is the problem with Sharky.
Everything in Sharky is cranked up to 11, like a middle school age kid pumped up on Five Hour Energy Drinks and pixy sticks. Alex Horley's art is charming, wonderful and often shows real virtuosity; also, it's full of exaggeration and overacting. Every panel in the book, and nearly every character shown in the book, is extremely emotive, bold and intense and bright.
I wanted everything in this book to slow down just a little bit, to take the volume down to 8 or 9 for a few minutes on the death metal so that I could ease my heartbeat down, slow down the visual overstimulation and the intense emotions, and just enjoy the core story of a frustrated and geeky middle school kid – bad with women, face filled with zits, wall covered with comic posters – who has the power to turn into the world's coolest super-hero, a kind of Lobo without the shitty attitude (and without the weightloss plan of the new Lobo). You know, I wanted this collection of rock anthems to have a couple of slow songs to break up all the intense guitar solos.
Aside from a thoroughly charming tangent about the ersatz 1940s hero Blazin' Glory (drawn by Paris Cullins in a faux Simon & Kirby style) , Horley draws every scene with over-the-top intensity. Villains grit their rotted teeth, heroines (including an absurdly buxum babe called Thor) wear g-strings and nipple rings to cover their chests, and all the emotions are grandiose.
Of course this is all a giant farce, and there's a feeling that Elliott and Horley are letting readers watch as they crack a slew of giant jokes. It's a shame that this book doesn't hold together better than it does, because some of these jokes and ideas are genuinely clever – the idea of the kid reciting an Etrigan the Demon-like chant to gain his powers was hilarious, the Blazin' Glory pastiche was funny, the inversion of gender roles in Asgard was damned clever, and a late zombie subplot was charming.
But too much of this book feels like a bit of a ramble. A slew of half-forgotten super-characters – Mr. Monster, Flaming Carrot, Trencher and Wildstar among others – show up with little explanation and even less impact on the story. Savage Dragon is in the comic, then he isn't, then he is again. We go from line art to painted art and back to line art without any explanation.
It pains me to give this book a mediocre review. Writer Dave Elliott is a good friend, and he's been a great guest on our site podcast. But while I would sometimes get involved in the thrills and chills of this story, other times I would just get completely lost and desperate to figure out what was happening. This book is outrageously fun at times, bafflingly confusing at others.