Cryptozoic Man #1 Review: So Cryptic You’ll Need Ibuprofen
I have never seen a comic book try so hard to do so many things at once. I've also never seen a comic book fail so miserably at trying to do so many things at once.
The brainchild of Walter Flannigan and Bryan Johnson from AMC's Comic Book Men, Cryptozoic Man
is about Alan Ostment, a man transformed into a hideous creature on a quest to find his daughter. Standing in his way is a piggy man and a separate dimension filled with classical monsters known as "cryptids."
Bryan Johnson handled the writing in this issue and that's unfortunately the weakest thing about Cryptozoic Man. I understand this comic is supposed to be "cryptic" but the organization makes it extremely hard to follow what is going on. First we're in almost another story entirely with several people in a small town engaging in several deadly sins. Then we see Cryptozoic Man fighting a man in a pig mask. This is followed by a quick trip to the past when Alan lost his daughter, then how he became the Cryptozoic Man, then we return to his fight which is interrupted by the sinful resident of the town once again.
Each of these segments are so short it's hard to develop each of them. The page where Alan loses his daughter fails to be emotional because we've just met Alan and it's only a page where we get to see his panic. The next time we see him he's being blamed for his daughter's death. It feels like several issues worth of material is being crammed into a couple of pages. With better pacing and a clearer organization this story could be very powerful since the idea of a parent losing a child is strong. But at least Alan's goal is very compelling. It's also unique to have a middle-aged husband and father as your protagonist.
The connection between the town of sins and Alan's story isn't made clear. It doesn't help that every time we're in this town the narration is laced with poetic words that sound pretty but require multiple readings and concentration to understand if you're not a poetry buff. The dialogue also feels awkward in several spots.
Despite it seeming like a lot is going on, not a lot is accomplished. There is a lot of exposition from the piggy man about the monsters Cryptozoic Man has to fight (using a page layout that remind me of the stage selection screen from Mega Man
). The designs of the monsters and everything else opens a whole new can of worms.
Walter Flanagan's artwork isn't bad and is made wonderful thanks to Ryan Jensen's color, especially in the "town of sins" where the colors look painted on. The problems with the artwork are mostly outside this town. Like the story, too much is going on in the design of Cryptozoic Man. Our hero is all over the place, especially when compared to the more simplistic monsters he's going to fight, which include the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, Mothman, Chupacabra and the Abominable Snowman. The aliens are classic little grey men but aren't drawn very well with odd looking giraffe-like necks and wrinkles. Without the colors, the art would not be as enjoyable and even with them little quirks make it hard to enjoy at times. But there is some beautiful artwork in there, specifically three panels which show a guy lose his skin and become nothing but bones, then he's reduced to nothing but dust. If more panels were like this the artwork would be an astonishing wonder. Unfortunately, no other panel even comes close to matching this grim transformation sequence.
I really wanted to like this comic book since it was from the "Comic Book Men" of AMC. But I'm afraid even their show can't make up for this disappointing start to a series that made me feel nothing but a headache. I'm sure some people who like all of these ideas meshed together may enjoy this issue and the artwork had some wonderful moments, but it's just not for me and I suspect many others.