Sharknife v1

Sharknife

Written and illustrated by Corey Southerland Lewis
Grayscale coloring by Alejandro Fuentes

Sharknife was the talk of the blogosphere last month. As usual, by the time I've finally managed to compose my thoughts, everyone's moved on to completely new topics. Oh well. It's not like I'm trying to be timely here. C'est la vie.

Sharknife doesn't really have much of a plot — see, there's a Chinese restaurant, the Guangdong Factory, and some evil gangsters are trying to shut it down by piping monsters into its walls. Fortunately, the Factory is protected by ace busboy Ceasar Hallelujah, who uses magic fortune cookies to transform into the invincible Sharknife! He fights his way through a few dozen monsters, but the evil Ombra Ravenga always seems to have a few dozen more...

I'll be upfront and admit that I'm not exactly the target audience for Sharknife — I'm about ten years too old, at a minimum — but I apprecaite that Corey S. Lewis is trying to create something new here. The comic is an interesting blend of anime, video games, graffiti, hip-hop, and inspired gibberish. It looks and feels like no other comic I've seen in the last few years, and that's always a good thing. Even so, once you scratch the surface there's no substance. There's no real plot or subplot, and fighting monsters gets old very quickly. Hopefully, future voumes will add some depth to the story.

Visually, the book is striking, but there's one serious flaw that leaps out at you from every page...

Sharknife p. 102

Sharknife #1, p. 102-3

The overall tonal balance of these two pages is horrible. The only things that really leap out at you are the heavy black panel borders and Chieko's word balloon. Everything else dissolves into a muddy gray mess — there's no tonal difference between Sharknife, the restaurant tables, or the collar around Crima-Bola's head. The blacks aren't spotted intelligently, and there's no significant variation in line weight on individual figures. The biggest problem is that the panel borders are so noticeable, as ideally they should be completely invisible unless they're part of some grand, overall design.

Which is a pity, because some aspects of this page are really nice. The sequence of Sharknife being tossed, landing, and spinning about is exciting and effective (even if the positions of Sharknife and Crima-Bolo should be reversed, to facilitate the storytelling across the spread). The art and character designs are fresh, fun, and engaging. But at first glance, it's all just gray mud, and that's a big strike against the entire book.

I'd actually like to see a few of these pages in color. If done well, it could tighten them up and give them the extra focus they need.

Guangdong Factory Jukebox

Like several recent comics, Sharknife includes an unofficial "soundtrack" in the back. Out of curiosity, I downloaded most of the songs from iTunes and decided to see how well they fit the source material.

Before reading through the comic, I listed to each song individually. I wasn't terribly impressed — it's mostly hip-hop and scratchy low-fi rock, and I'm not a big fan of either. But you know what? They really worked much better in context. The songs really did enhance the mood of many scenes, and helped add some extra punch to a few sequences that aren't a s strong as they should be.

The only downside? Now I'm stuck with ten iTunes songs that I probably won't listen to when I'm not reading Sharknife...

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