Okay, real talk: are sharks (especially great white sharks) scary? The answer to that is, yes. Yes, they are. Look, I know there are a ton of statistics that argue the likeliness of getting attacked by a shark is akin to being struck by lightning while clutching a winning lottery ticket after becoming a finalist on American Idol or whatever, but that does not detract from how damn frightening those sea beasts are on a primal level.
Movies and books like Jaws (and anything else that Peter Benchley wrote) have wormed their way into our cultural subconscious and tapped into the reptilian brain of pop culture consumers across the globe. Maybe it’s because we don’t fully understand sharks that make them so terrifying. Or maybe it’s those dead, black eyes and rows upon rows of teeth? I dunno. I’m not a psychologist or a sharkologist (that’s what they’re called, right?); I just write about comics, and in this case I’m writing about a shark comic.
The Atoll #1 is the latest release from Heavy Metal Magazine’s catalogue of standalone comics not featured in their flagship, bi-monthly anthology. Written by Tim Daniel and drawn by Ricardo Drumond, The Atoll #1 lures (intended pun) readers in with a rather interesting set-up: a former Olympian and a software mogul are presumed dead after a nautical mishap, but have actually been spirited away to a deadly battle arena by a pontificating, billionaire madman who is so close to being a Bond villain, he should be holding a white Persian cat. Oh, and did I mention the deadly battle arena is populated by great white sharks? Yeah, there’s that.
It’s too early to tell if The Atoll will live up to its really cool premise. We only get a glimpse of who the major players are. As a reader, you don’t get a chance to really feel anything for them, but, of course, it’s still early in the story. Tim Daniel does a good job of showing how the two protagonists are important in this world by way of Tweets about their presumed demise early on in lieu of standard story captions. It’s a gimmick that mostly works and helps drive home the idea of isolation for our heroes. They are stranded and as far as we know, no one is coming for them. It’s the sort of thing that amplifies already good thrillers and survival horror stories.
Drumond’s art is quite good. The pacing and the flow of his sequentials compliment the building tension and sense of isolation, but when we do finally get to see the shark tear things up in the arena, it’s a bit of a letdown. The action scenes are a bit messy, and it’s hard to tell what’s happening. It’s not until we see a dude missing an arm that we realize what went down under the water. Perhaps it was an artistic choice to evoke sudden shock. If so, it didn’t really work. I hope Drumond is just saving up the juicy shark for later issues.
The Atoll #1 gives you a lot to chew on (another one!) and could be the makings of a really fun marine thriller that sits somewhere between the works of Ian Fleming and Peter Benchley. While the art didn’t always work for me, the storytelling is solid enough to make me want more.
- Great Premise
- Using social media as a world building device works well
- Character art looks great
- Not enough time to care about the characters
- Shark action is lacking