10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
"Shako! The Eskimo word for the great white bear. It means simply... killer!" This gloriously over-the-top piece of narration (pure Pat Mills in every respect!) begins one of the odder sagas in 2000AD's storied history. Running originally in 2000AD Progs 20-35, 'Shako' was scripted by Mills and Dredd-creator John Wagner, and drawn principally by 'Flesh' artist Ramon Sola (with contributions from other artists of the era.) The story concerns an unfortunate polar bear, who has accidentally consumed a CIA-manufactured capsule containing a deadly bone-melting virus (which is about the extent of the sci-fi in the story.) The bear is then hunted by US agents who are desperate to retrieve the bio-weapon, but are unable to simply shoot Shako, lest the virus be spread. In the course of this, lots of people get eaten, clawed, ripped to pieces and maimed, whilst Shako himself also gets drunk, wields a gun and boxes a Russian.
To my way of thinking, as a strip 'Shako' has two clear relatives in British comics. Its father is undoubtedly 'Hookjaw', the monstrous shark-with-a-lip-piercing from 'Action'. The connections are clear: Pat Mills, Ramon Sola, and a merciless force of nature crunching its way through humans either deserving of death through wickedness or stupidity, or simply through being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Indeed, the hero of 'Shako', Eskimo hunter Buck Dollar, is a fairly clear amalgam of 'Hookjaw's two main good guys, the Pacific island native Sharky and the ill-fated Rick Mason. Likewise, CIA-agent Jake Falmuth is pretty much 'Hookjaw's Red McNally in all but name. However, 'Shako's older brother as a strip is clearly 2000AD's 'Flesh' - again, Pat Mills, Ramon Sola, and dinosaurs on the rampage, as a merciless force of nature crunches its way.... well, you know the rest.
However, Shako differs from its relations in a couple of ways. It's never as relentlessly horrific as 'Hookjaw' - it certainly tries, but I'm not sure any strip since has ever recreated the bloodthirsty energy spawned by 'Hookjaw's sheer vital nastiness. Nor does 'Shako' quite reach the levels of hysteria in which 'Flesh' indulges - the concept of a killer polar bear just doesn't give Mills the same scope for flat-out, operatic insanity as his dinosaur tale.
As such, 'Shako' effectively falls between two stools, though it has plenty of strengths. I mean, it's a story about a polar bear eating people - it'd be hard to get wrong. One particular stand-out is the art of both Sola and Juan Arancio. Some of the other work is a bit variable, but these two always manage to imbue Shako with real character - not easy to do with a bear! I am especially fond of the Arancio panel where a whiskeyed-up Shako, seeing double, decides to dispose of one of the 'two' men he sees before him: the look on the bear's face as he prizes the man's lips open with his claws is priceless. Shako's invasion of Ice Station Delta is also a highlight - some nightmarish imagery collides with the blackest of comedy as a small Eskimo boy accidentally leads his bullying teacher straight into Shako's jaws. Indeed, the strip has a very dark vein of humour throughout, which instead of undercutting the horror serves only to strengthen it.
'Shako' has been reprinted before, in part in annuals and in whole in an Extreme Edition, but this version also features the 10-page 'origin' story, 'White Fury' from the 1978 annual, as well as a suitably gory cover from modern 2000AD alumni Jock - both good enough reasons to pick it up again. (Shako's later appearance in 'Armoured Gideon' is not included, understandably.) I actually feel 'Shako' has aged fairly well (some of the art aside) - the prime viciousness is always a treat, and it's fun to cheer the bear on. Make no mistake - as readers we are very squarely on Shako's side. Not all his victims may deserve it, but as a species, mankind undoubtedly does, and this story is quick to celebrate that fact.
(Oh, and a quick note: at the time of writing, Amazon is listing this book as hardback. Just so you know, it's not.)
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2013
A sheer classic, this book is definetly worth a try, the storyline is great, very enjoyable, the characters are likable and funny when needed, the art is fantastic, it’s good to look at. I recommend this book to anyone who loves comics or just interested in getting to know the genre.