Humanoids Inc, 2014, 212 pages
In the insatiable quest for natural resources, humans are searching further and deeper into the earth, threatening to unleash monsters thought to be long gone...
PUBLICATION IN 10 VOLUMES - COMPLETED WORK.
The megalodon, the prehistoric ancestor of the great white shark was the most ferocious predator of the seas, an 80 foot killing machine extinct for millions of years... But when divers drilling in an underwater cave are attacked by this living fossil, oceanographer Kim Melville discovers that this creature may not only have survived, but thrived, and is reclaiming its place at the top of the food chain.
Carthago begins with a high concept premise suitable for a Hollywood blockbuster: an oil and natural gas corporation called Carthago, run by evil old white men right out of Capitalist Bad Guy Central Casting, has stumbled upon a giant shark in one of the trenches they're drilling in. Despite losing an entire dive team, they decide to hide the shark's existence because those namby-pamby environmentalists who are always on their case would probably declare it an "endangered species." You know, just because it's supposed to have been extinct for a million years. And that might interfere with their drilling operations.
So Carthago keeps the shark a secret, and more people get eaten, and at first the main character is a marine biologist single mother whose daughter seems to be some sort of mutant aquagirl.
The first few volumes are mostly about Kim Melville and her fellow explorers and biologists trying to prove that the megalodon actually exists, while avoiding Carthago's men in black. There is a lot of skulduggery and more mysteries, and if the story seems a little scattered, it's never boring, because there will always be a shark coming along to eat someone soon.
The longer the story goes on, the stranger it gets, especially with the introduction of Wolfgang Fiersinger, a wheelchair-bound billionaire who is known as the "Centenarian of the Carpathians" and who has the money to buy all sorts of Bond-villain gadgets and high-tech vehicles, and also to hire personal attendants who cavort around on deck topless.
Ah, who'm I kidding, if I were a wheelchair-bound billionaire, I'd probably surround myself with hot naked nurses too.
Fiersinger's motives are often opaque, and he can be both a patron to our intrepid adventurers and a colossal jerk. Characterization was one of the weak points of this series. The dialog (translated from French) was often stilted and awkward, and the characters were prone to delivering dramatic statements that sounded more like Hollywood movie scripts than actual people. Also, sometimes they're just really dumb. Like, a billionaire who can send secret super-subs to the bottom of the ocean to fetch you has just abducted you and your daughter and you're now in his mountain retreat surrounded by armed men, and what do you say to him?
"Yeah, I'm totally gonna have you arrested as soon as I get out of here!"
Will you, now, lady?
I was feeling a bit annoyed by the end of the first five-volume arc (each volume is about 60 pages), but I was hooked enough to keep reading the next installment, until I finished the 10-volume series.
Like other comics I have read from Humanoids Inc, Carthago is gorgeously illustrated, but the writing is episodic to the point of distraction. The story went all over the place, not helped by the frequent jumping around in time. We'd skip from the present day to a scene from ten years in the future, then back to the present, then a flashback to twenty years ago, and then to the 19th century, and so on. Eventually, the megadolodons (yes, plural) are just a background menace as the scope of the story expands to other cryptozoics, climactic catastrophes, ancient civilizations, and eventually, a search for Atlantis and a literal save-the-world finale.
Carthago feels like a classic globetrotting Eurocomic, in the tradition of The Adventures of Tintin, but with more sex and violence. Our intrepid adventurers go everywhere from the Australian Outback to the Arctic to the Himalayas to the Kamchatka Trench, and there's always another big honkin' shark every few pages, though at times they seem to show up just to remind us that they're still around.
For lavishly-illustrated shark carnage and an epic that ends epically if a little weirdly, Carthago is worth wasting a few hours if you like shaaaaaarks! There are also apparently several spin-off and prequel series, which I have not read.
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