Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Book Review: The Shark King

  Our library recently (yesterday, really!) got a load of new graphic novels. Amidst the Phineas & Ferb and Sports Illustrated Kids and Voltron books that came in, there was The Shark King. A good story that wasn't what I had expected filled with art that had a retro feel to it, in part because of the style the artist and writer, R. Kikuo Johnson used to render the figures and backgrounds in, and partly because the color palette is reminiscent of a 1950s storybook. I always like it when someone takes a classic look to a comics story. I'm a huge fan of golden and silver age comics because of the art.
  Looking at the cover, I figured it would be some sort of fantasy story or a re-worked piece of mythology. Either way, I expected the book to be a quest of some sort because of the word balloon assigned to the boy, "I will find you!" What is inside the book is the story of a woman named Kalei, who likes to gather and eat the opihi that cling to the rocks along the shore. Suddenly a wave rises toward her with a massive shark inside it. To her surprise, she is saved by a handsome islander who warns her of the mysterious Shark King and soon they fall in love and are married. The night the baby is due, dad decides he has to go make a safe place in the world for his son and he leaves. That's when Kalei discovers her husband is the Shark King! The story shifts to her raising the young sharkling boy as a single mother. The kid, Nanaue, is raised away from other people and for good reason! His appetite is HUGE, he seems to have a hyperactive form of ADD that also makes him want to run with as little clothing as possible! Most disconcerting of all is a crooked line on his back that turns into a mouth and tries to eat anyone who gets too close! Like his father, Nanue is a shape shifter and more at home in the water than on land. His appetite leads him to find easy meals at the expense of the island's fishermen, until he is discovered.

Kalei learns the truth about her husband!

Nanue running in all his glory!
 The strengths in Johnson's book, aside from the art, is the ability to bring personality to Nanue and Kalei. The fact the story isn't very long and should appeal to a broad audience is a plus, too. If mythology is your thing, or stories of far off places and times is your thing, you will find plenty to enjoy in this latest offering from Toon Books.

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