Hookjaw (pkgd. w/ JD Meg #446) – Alec Worley

2 out of 5

Given that this is a collection of all Alec Worley-scripted tales, your appreciation of it will depend on how you feel about his writing. I don’t generally mind Worley, but he also sort of reminds me of Edginton – some great ideas that tend to jump around once scripted. Worley’s writing can be a bit “snappier” than Ian’s, which has pluses and minuses: on the plus side, that makes the pace a bit more consistent, but on the downside, his stories – again, to me – tend to lack the buildup of Ian’s.

Refiguring Hookjaw into a blood-soaked, magic-infused slasher – the beast takes on a mythic, god-like role, moderately controlled by those who think their experience in the spirit realm gives them sway – is a fun update, and putting Leigh Gallagher on art is the right idea. But this is especially a type of tale that requires effective pacing, and Worley just doesn’t offer that, which leads to really unfortunate jumps in the narrative, leaving character connections somewhere off page, and encouraging the art to betray what could’ve been effective reveals for jammed-in splash pages of gore. Nothing comes out especially well: it’s not very scary; it’s not very interesting; it’s not very complex; and it seems an uneven use of Leigh’s skills. Between that, there’s the Worley ability of a good idea, and that does keep things chugging along. This was a rather stuttery read in the original progs, and collecting it hasn’t really changed that.

Appended onto this are three one-shots by Worley and various notable artists, mostly following this pacing trend. A war-as-entertainment story has fun energy in its visuals from Staz Johnson, but the flow is even more broken than usual, absolutely leaping from panel to panel; a time traveling cabbie concept is very cool, but rushed to fit in its exposition dumps; and the final techno-dream theft bit is in line with that war tale – some very John Smith-y surreality happening, but the requisite Future Shock twist requires feels stuffed in.

In all cases, I like Worley’s dialogue – it’s mostly naturalistic – though this butts up against the way it doesn’t work in concert with the hiccup-y pacing, leading to characters who don’t necessarily feel like they’re talking to one another, so much as trying to explain things to themselves.