Sharknife Power Level: Tight!

March 28th, 2012 by | Tags:

I was heavy into Warren Ellis in 2005. I was on the Bad Signal mailing list, even, and I remember him hyping a lot of comics. I feel like there were three comics that were Big Deals in 2005. One was Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim. The other was Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg’s Street Angel. And the third was Corey Lewis’s Sharknife. All of these comics were examples of what I think was being called the New Mainstream at the time. The New Mainstream was an alternative to the old mainstream, which was corporate cape comics. The New Mainstream was mostly creator-owned adventure comics, some of them with goofy high concepts, but these three were pretty much golden. I’m sure you’ve seen the Scott Pilgrim flick by this point, which is about as good of an adaptation of that comic as you’ll ever see. If you haven’t read Street Angel, you should. (I’m still waiting for a chance to see that Street Angel indie film that those Australians did years ago.) It’s very good. Lewis’s Sharknife was good, too.

In fact, Sharknife is a pleasantly weird comic. It feels like one of those comics where the creator just empties out his brain on the page. Whatever he’s into, from music to video games to tv to whatever, ends up there in black and white. I don’t know Sharknife‘s secret recipe. I catch a lot of what Lewis is throwing — Street Fighter, kung fu, Power Rangers, manga (my guess is Akira Toriyama) — and that’s always cool. We’re probably around the same age, judging by the stuff he’s into.

But all of that stuff is secondary to what makes Sharknife so good. Sharknife works because Lewis gets that style is substance. How you say something is as important as what you’re saying. Something like a Lil Jon single isn’t gonna be that complicated. But Jon knows how to say things in a way that’ll get you hyped up and throwing elbows. It’s a combination of lyrics and music in the case of rap, but for comics, it’s a combination of ideas and art. The words matter, sure, but “He headlocked a bear” is .0001 as effective as a drawing showing the same thing.

Sharknife has style. You can see it in the logo and lettering, for one thing. Lewis’s sfx, with its filled-in letters and irregular forms, are idiosyncratic and perfect for the series. They look like they should bounce over the page rather than just sit on top of the art. Have you seen what happens when lettering shows up in a cartoon? His sound effects are like that. His art sits comfortably in that “manga-inspired” lane, for lack of a better descriptor. He does super deformed characters, he does super detailed characters, and his sense of design leans toward videogame flourishes. Everybody gets a cool touch to their wardrobe or costume. People have names like Ombra Ravenga and Caesar Hallelujah.

The feel of Sharknife is kinda like how people describe action or kung fu movies to their friends. The Killer is a deadly serious movie, but nobody is dour when explaining it. They’re psyched, they’re excited to even be talking about it. Words spill out of their mouths and they get ahead of themselves, but it’s always fun. That’s what Sharknife is like. There’s this bit where Sharknife is fighting in his restaurant and a table full of patrons freaks out and worries that they’re gonna die. Sharknife turns, says, “It’s cool!!!!”, and then slams the table through a wall while the patrons scream “Thanks Sharkniiiife!”

Sharknife is full of stuff like that. Those little flourishes and embellishments make the comic. The story is goofy, but simple. Busboy by day, superhero by slightly later in the day, Sharknife fights evil and protects the chinese food restaurant The Guangdong Factory! But the cast is filled with Megaman-style villains (i.e., ones with real specific gimmicks) and weirdos.

All of this takes place in a heightened version of reality, or maybe just a Saturday morning cartoon. Or a Saturday morning cartoon version of a really good video game. Something like that, but anyway, the point is, physics and realism don’t matter. Sharknife is go with the flow comics. It’s id comics. You just want to let it seep into your brain and see what switches it flips. And Sharknife is a good comic, too. That’s what’s most important. All of the style and video game-y stuff coalesce into a really solid form and make for a supremely entertaining comic.

I haven’t read Sharknife ZZ yet. I expect to like it as much as I like the first one. There’s a lengthy preview below, and you can and should buy both Sharknifes on Amazon (Volume 1 and Volume 2), at your local comic shop, or digitally (volume 1 and volume 2). When taken together, you’re looking at what, 400 pages of good comics? More than worth it.

Similar Posts:

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Comments are closed.