There are two types of Mark Millar comics. The first is the work that has something on its mind, even if whatever that happens to be is nothing more than light-hearted (often dirty-minded) fun. The other side of that equation are comics that are a hodgepodge of story tropes, familiar themes, and various iconography from all corners of pop culture, all mashed together to create a story. Both of these camps have good and bad in them, and when the good is good, it's pretty stellar. But when the bad flexes its muscle, it's downright depressing. Sharkey The Bounty Hunter #1 falls somewhere in between.
The output from Millar after his deal with Netflix has been mostly solid. Prodigy is smart, funny and twisted, and The Magic Order was pretty much perfect up until its rushed finale. Sharkey The Bounty Hunter, however, is the first Millarworld title to show signs of fatigue. While it does sport gorgeous illustration from Italian artist Simone Bianchi, the first issue pales in comparison to the aforementioned titles under the same flagship. But does that mean it's bad? Well, no. There is nothing objectively terrible in the pages of Millar and Bianchi's science fiction, bounty hunter comic, because it doesn't take enough risks to be a failure.
My relationship with Mark Millar's work has been spotty. In the late '90s and early aughts, I thought he was pretty much a gift to the medium. His work on The Ultiamtes, Wanted and The Authority redefined what superhero comics could be. They could tackle tough subject matter, and instead of relying on vague parables and heavy-handed cautionary tales, they laid all the cards on the table, showing the ugly side of what it would mean to exist in a world of capes and super powers. The stories weren't always pretty; in fact, a lot of them were intentionally ugly to drive their point home, but they were compelling and, at their best, challenging. Rarely does an original intellectual property feel so cold and rote and still somehow manage to give us spectacle, but Sharkey #1 is the graphic medium equivalent of Avatar. It sure is pretty to look at, but nothing is going on behind its visage.
Over the last decade and a half, my love for Millar has faltered, but never fully disappeared. It's been up and down. Old Man Logan: up. Reborn: down. Jupiter's Legacy: up. Nemesis: down...way down. Rarely does a Millar book feel so... meh. There's not feeling of excitement for things to come. there's no weird hook to keep me engaged. There's just a lot of ideas and story beats I've seen in dozens of comics before it, many of which handle much better than Sharkey. As far as plot goes, the titular anti-hero, Sharkey is a grizzled bounty hunter (who looks a little like Grimace from McDonaldland and a lot like Lemmy from Motorhead) that gets roped into an escort mission across the galaxy. And that's about it.
The character designs are great, but the heart under all the weird and wonderful visuals isn't beating. The varied facets of this comic are so familiar, it often feels as if the script was written by a computer program that watched a thousand hours of science fiction films and anime, and Sharkey The Bounty Hunter #1 is the result. But...somehow, it still isn't a godawful comic. There is a reason so many elements in this comic were used: Because they work. Whenever I see the words "Bounty Hunter" in a title of anything, my interest is immediately piqued (it took me half a season before I realized Dog the Bounty Hunter just wasn't for me... or anyone else for that matter).
Simone Bianchi's art is stellar, but his interior work never quite lives up to the breath-taking cover art. My gut feeling is that the colors he uses to bring his own work to life just don't quite fit in this issue. A third party colorist could have given the work a different dimension, and possibly made it pop even more than it does. With that being said, calling Bianchi's interiors inferior to his covers is like calling Get Back lame when comparing it to Abbey Road. Both are great, but we all know a masterpiece when we see/hear it.
Sharkey the Bounty Hunter #1 doesn't really do any new tricks, which is fine -- but Millar and Bianchi are better than just "fine." These guys are virtuosos in their respective fields, and like a parent who caught their teenager sneaking into the house at two in the morning, you expect better than this effort. Hopefully they can turn this spaceship around in future issues.