Pick of the Week
What did the
cover RYAN OTTLEY & JASON HOWARD
Size: 48 pages
“It’s just big, dumb comic book fun.”
That’s the kind of sentence that really bothers me. No one would assign a singular kind of story to another medium. No would would excuse the absence of logic or thought in the pursuit of big ideas across all of film. But the comic book is a place where absurdity and stupidity are supposed to reign, presumably because the vast majority of readers want only spectacle, and no substance. They want only the most visceral of stimulation. “When does the Hulk get to smashing?” they ask. “But why is that all you want?” I return. “Smashing good, fool!” is the answer.
Most of the time, I roll my eyes, and leave the kids to their dumb fun; good for them for finding something they enjoy. As such, I am labeled as the fun hater. I hate that label, to be honest. Fun is something different to everyone. It’s entirely subjective, and we’ve all got our own tastes.
Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark is ridiculous, almost absurdly dumb fun. However, it is also glorious.
There’s barely enough to call it high concept. It’s just a couple of artists letting their id spill out all over the page, and having a ton of fun doing it, while being lucky enough to know some folks at Image Comics who’d publish this pile of nonsensical animal attacks. What if a Shark and a Bear got mixed up, and hunted you? No need to explain it. Just get on with it.
Jason Howard drew the Sea Bear story, where, try and stay with me here, a Bear hunts from the sea, devouring boat loads of unsuspecting tourists. He doesn’t have fins, or any fish parts. The bear is completely indistinct from any regular bear. But he is of the great blue sea. When a boy comes to get revenge on the Sea Bear for eating his family years earlier, he finds that the Sea Bear has enslaved and mated with a local islands inhabitants, creating a cult of half-breed human cultists, loyal to Sea Bear. Shortly thereafter, the boy transforms into a cyborg and is attacked by a torpedo/robot fired from a nearby submarine. Basically there’s a lot of fighting and heads getting cut off. The thing is, with this, and the following story, I laughed, loudly, and several times. I didn’t quite get what Kirkman saw in Howard’s work when he first ended up on Astonishing Wolf-Man, but the raw black and white work here is all about action and absurd violence and fun. The pages explode with energetic goofiness, and it did everything Howard set out to do. This is exactly why Kirkman picked Howard to work with.
Sea Bear would almost have been enough, but the second half of the double-sized issue was Ryan Ottley’s turn to showcase the Grizzly Shark. Grizzly Shark is a shark who does not swim in the ocean, but hunts through the trees in the forest, and it’s fairly clear that if you come by his woods, he’ll get you. If it was possible, Grizzly Shark is even more ludicrous than Sea Bear. I could explain the story, but really, this is all about the shots of the shark coming from out of nowhere, to consume some unsuspecting passerby with just a hint of blood about them. You want to be very careful not to cut yourself in Grizzly Shark’s woods is what I’m saying. Ottley has long been one of my favorite artists, and this issue, like Howard’s story, we just see him let go and destroy these pages. It’s pure cartooning and comic storytelling at his best, and the fun is all over the pages.
Neither Howard nor Ottley are trying to win an Eisner here. They’re not trying to examine the human condition, or what it would really be like to be a super powered human in the world. They’re trying to make each other crack up by showing endless, silly bear and shark attacks, and frankly, it was something I didn’t realize was missing in my life until today. Subsequent flips through the pages elicited the same laughs.
Hate fun? Me? I think not.
The fact is, the world needs more examination of the dangers of sharks, and bears, and what might happen if they were to somehow leave their natural habitat. Would it be a matter of days or hours before they successfully destroyed human civilization in their relentless pursuit of human blood and death? Sure, this book is in the guise of humor and is only considered a harmless bit of fun, but really people, what if?
It’s an answer I hope never to learn more about. Think about it.
I'm saying, if sharks got to land, it'd be all over.