Art and Story by Ryan Ottley
Colors by Ivan Plascencia
I'd rather not spend my time on this book. It's not worth it.
No, really. It's that bad. You don't need me to explain why.
(Jude Terror, whispering): Yes, you fucking do! Write the review or you won't get fed this week!
Ugh. Fine. I'll do it, but first:
Reluctant Spoiler Warning
There's a shark in the woods for some reason. It's attracted to the smell of blood and eats people. A bunch of rednecks get together and try to kill it. They seemingly succeed. The end.
When I first heard about this comic, I didn't know anything about it. I just saw the cover. It looked like a B-movie monster flick along the same lines of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the vastly overrated Sharknado. (Yeah, that's right. I SAID IT!!!) So, despite this comic reminding me of aforementioned CGI shitstorm, the B-movie tone won over my horror fanboy heart. I read no other reviews, no plot synopsis, and went in pure as a virgin.
Boy, oh boy. Was I disappointed.
Ever rented a horror movie based on the cool cover only to discover it was shit? That's Grizzly Shark in a nutshell. It is a nice looking cover. Detailed, colorful, bloody, and revealing the monster only enough to give the reader an idea of what's going on, but still leaving a little room for mystery. If you ever want to do a horror comic, whether it be a serious psychological tale or a fun shlockfest, remember that subtlety is the key to success.
Too bad Ryan Ottley doesn't apply the same logic to the story. It starts in medias res with a guy named Pete camping in the woods with his son, Donnie. Off the bat, we don't know anything about these characters, what they're doing, or where they are. In medias res is a nice technique to get make an impact on the reader. The thing is though that starting in the middle of the story implies that there will be a follow up scene to explain what's going on.
There's none of that though. The story just keeps on going, and you don't learn what's happening until Pete briefly explains that a grizzly shark killed his cattle. That would've been cool to see, but instead it's described in short exposition. As a result, you feel like the story's lacking. First time I read this, I honestly thought there were pages missing, so I checked another copy just to make sure. Nope. Ryan Ottley decides "Fuck giving the reader a sense of direction or understanding of the story. I'm just gonna get to those money shot gore scenes!"
Indeed, each page is just a jump from one gory shark scene to the other. The problem is that there is no suspense to build up the scene. You don't feel any excitement. They don't make an impression, you just see it and move on feeling empty. As much as those scenes are the selling point, they don't mean anything if there's no substance. Just flash in the pan (God, I can't believe I typed that cliched line. I blame you, Grizzly Shark).
With the lack of suspense comes a lack of character. Seriously, Pete, Donnie, and the other characters all sound the same. Tie me up and dangle me over a shark tank, and I couldn't tell you who's who. The only one that sticks out is Jonbob, the hillbilly, and there's nothing else to him. There is Gary the expert exterminator in name only. He never shows off his skills. If the creators had included scenes of character development, it could have made these guys interesting. As is, they're just boring cutouts meant to deliver jokes.
And God almighty, is the humor lame. It suffers from every benchmark of bad comedy: predictable, cliched, overly explained, lack of logic, etc. There's one part where Donnie gets bitten by the shark and loses his stomach. Donnie points this out...and he and Pete just laugh. Why? I don't fucking know. Nothing demonstrated by these character's behavior would suggest they would laugh at something like this. I don't get your humor, Ottley. I don't get it, and it makes me mad.
Remember what I said about deceiving covers? Well, that applies to the interior art as well. It's not bad, but it's inferior to the cover, less detailed, more sketchy and loose like a cartoon. The biggest problem with this style is the design of the shark:
That thing looks like a kid's blow up toy trying to make an angry face. It's the lamest design possible for an interesting concept. It could've been that the human characters looked simple, but the Grizzly Shark had a super-detailed, scary design that would've had some sort of artistic merit. Instead, we get Jabberjaw's annoying stepson.
If I can give the art style merit on anything, it is the gore scenes. Those are pretty well drawn, and obviously the most effort Ottley and Plascencia put into this book. They have a lovely tomato red splatter effect common to B-horror. But they don't matter without any substance. They're mere tasty bits to what is a stale dish.
You might be thinking I'm being too harsh. It's shlock, it's supposed to be just fun and mindless. Oh, I agree, and there are great shlock comics out there like I Hate Fairyland. However, even that comic has character development, a focused narrative, and pauses between action to build up suspense. Also, the the art is gorgeous.
Grizzly Shark is a failed opportunity that goes belly up the minute you open up to the first page. What could've been an entertaining monster comic turns into a stale piece of garbage. Despite its titular monster, it's a dead sardine floating aimlessly in the vast ocean of comics.
My advice, if you're looking for a fun dumb comic, read I Hate Fairyland, Bloody Mary, or any similar comic. Or pick up some other Ottley work such as Invincible. It'll be a better purchase than Grizzly Shark.