Carthago by Christopher Bec graphic novel review

Sharks loom large in the first UK edition of Carthago

Sharks. We love them so much that we put them in tornados, give them multiple heads, make them fight a giant octopus, and let them inspire LL Cool J’s hat. But in the shark media market, one kind of toothy predator inspires the darkest fears within – a prehistoric shark so big that it makes Great Whites look like a basket of kittens: Megalodon.

After crushing the UK comics world in the late Seventies with Hookjaw (returning this December!), sharks have been largely absent from the medium, particularly if we don’t include Marvel’s mutant Shark-Girl. Which we don’t.

Thankfully, European comics stepped into the breach back in 2007 when prolific French writer Christophe Bec and artist Eric Henninot created Carthago, an ongoing series that on the surface is all about giant sharks eating people. Glorious as the chompathon is, Carthago is particularly notable for being one of the most impressive eco-thriller/horror tales of recent years, slowly revealing multiple plot threads, Lovecraftian cities and mythological creatures, and thriving on seemingly insurmountable cliffhangers that have built a loyal and appreciative audience.

Never before printed in English, new fans can dive right in with this colossal first collection of over 280 pages, where deep-sea drilling leads to a horrifying discovery – the 25-metre long killer didn’t go extinct 5 million years ago, and now it’s back for snack times.

Henninot pairs stripped-back realism alongside poptastic sound effects that explode from the page. Panels are used playfully but without confusion, and the transitions lend an epic cinematic feel that is quite common in European comics.

Put simply, this is the kind of comic to become utterly lost within, and would be worthy of the term ‘unputdownable’ if such a word existed.