Reviews: Shako

Published On January 3, 2013 | By James Bacon | Comics, Reviews


By Pat Mills, John Wagner, Ramon Sola, Juan Arancio


This is the perfect winter read, the story of a polar bear who inadvertently eats a capsule containing property of the CIA and who becomes their quarry and deadly nemesis.

Shako was an adventure story typical of the late seventies, there is a raw violence and energy to the story, it is dark and nasty in places, using an animal as a key character as the comic Action had used in Hook Jaw before it. Interestingly Hook Jaw also had input from Shako scribe Pat Mills who co-wrote with John Wagner on this story.

The Polar Bear eats a top secret capsule, which contains a virus, which has catastrophic potential, should the contents escape or get captured by the soviets and so the CIA, in the shape of quite a monster of a man Agent Falmuth sets out to capture the bear and recover the capsule at any cost.

The story is deeper than simply a chase. I realised as I read, that Shako an innocent animal is turned into a man killer of fierce violence by the action of the humans who hurt and wound him. At times the bear’s natural cruelty is over shadowed by the brutality and anger of Jake K. Falmuth known as ‘Foulmouth’ for his outbursts and atrocious behaviour.

The story is an interesting reflection upon the cold war. The Soviets get involved at one stage, to their own destruction. The bear, the natural destroyer of all forces regardless of ideology is, I felt, a metaphor for the hot war that was always a realistic fear of the time between the super powers.

Also, Shako in some ways could be seen as the symbol for much of humanity, the neutral people who wanted peace or who have no warmongering tendencies, dragged in against their own will into a fight, they want no part of, but cannot escape. The sadness as the bear cannot comprehend why it cannot just be left alone, why these men hunt it, hurt it and attempt to destroy it.

The artwork is black and white with lovely strong broad line work and good use of shade and block black, interestingly there are four european artists Juan Aranacio, Dodderio, Cesar Lopez-Vera and Roman Sola who had a hand in creating the story. Rebellion have done a nice job of packaging the sixteen episodes together, including the origin story from the 1978 2000AD annual, and it is a really interesting read if a little bit of a sad reflection on how downright evil and just wrong humans can be compared to a beast in the natural world.

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About The Author

James Bacon

James Bacon is a train Driver working in London but originally from Dublin. He also loves comics, theatre, history and books, runs conventions, writes about these activities and has edited a Hugo-winning Fanzine.

4 Responses to Reviews: Shako

  1. Matt Badham says:

    I got this for Christmas.

    It’s ace!

    Classic boys’ adventure fun with extra gore and, as you note, some thought-provoking subtext.

  2. James says:

    Yeah, I wonder if what Pat Mills would make of the view I took, if that was indeed his intention.

  3. Matt Badham says:

    You could ask him! Joe should have his email…

  4. peteuplink says:

    I remember reading some of this in an old 2000AD annual. It wasn’t the 70’s annual, but a reprint of the first part of the story in the mid-80’s. I thought it was great and now I have this version I can finally find out how it ends.