Indie Comic Review: Cryptozoic Man #1
If you’re a fan of AMC’s Comic Book Men, you might recall that towards the end of the last season, Walt Flanagan and his merry band of Comic Book Men visited New Jersey’s Dynamite Comics to pitch a new book featuring a, well, Cryptozoic Man. Guess what I got the other day? How does Cryptozoic Man square up in his battle against the Hype Machine? Peek below the fold to find out.
Before we get to deep, I’ll give you the official description from Dynamite:
From Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson of AMC TV’s “Comic Book Men” comes “Cryptozoic Man”! Alan Ostman, a middle-aged husband/father, sees his life quickly unravel when his daughter goes missing on a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest…Bigfoot country. After Gray aliens abduct him from a roadside bar, he learns that the fate of the world is dependent on trapping the world’s most legendary cryptids…not to mention defeating a psychopath in a pig-shaped leather bondage mask, Alan knows he has his work cut out for him. The storyline revolving around this four issue series will be revisited in Comic Book Men Season III.
And that is more or less how the book reads: like a big old pile of WTF.
Ostman’s story is fragmented and confusing, told primarily through flashbacks as the hero (big ol’ ? on that, btw) does battle with his pig-gimp adversary, and it suffers from a lack of clarity throughout. Unaddressed questions abound. Why has Ostman been chosen by the Grays to do battle against the cryptids? What does the disappearance of his daughter have to do with his own abduction, his transformation, or the monsters that he does battle with? Where are all these monsters coming from and why are they showing up now? It’s not that these questions just go unanswered—it’s the first issue after all, so there is time yet—it’s that these pretty critical questions go completely unasked by a protagonist who seems to take an awful of crap in stride or completely for granted in light of the fact that he has become a hideous amalgam of monster bits. The Cryptozoic Man seems to lack the reflectivity that makes other ”hideous” heroes like Swamp Thing, Nightcrawler, and The Thing great. They question their purpose, contemplate the vagaries of fate, and deconstruct what it means to be human. The only thing the Cryptozoic Man deconstructs is monsters, by force. Which is fun for a while, but ultimately pretty boring. Consider, would Spawn’s run have been nearly so long if it was nothing but body horror and splatter? I don’t think so.
Now, the reason I bought the book in the first place is Walt Flanagan’s stunning art work. Sure, he’s covering familiar terrain by depicting classic cryptid monsters like Big Foot, Nessie, and the Jersey Devil, but he does it with such iconic style that he is basically resetting the standard for how these creatures should be depicted in years to come. Its unfortunate that so much more screen time is devoted to pig-gimp, who is some how more derivative than any of the aforementioned classic beasties.
In contrast to Flanagan’s provocative art stands Bryan Johnson’s achingly purple prose. Florid and over-wrought throughout, there came a point about midway through the book that I transitioned from reading each page to simply enjoying the artwork and skimming the text. It feel’s like Johnson was aiming for something intellectual or philosophical (dare I say ‘Morrisonesque’), when what was really needed was some gonzo writing that embraced the strangeness of his hero and his story. Basically, the whole thing would’ve come across better if it was more Sharknado and less… well what it is. What’s unfortunate is that a more wry take on the story would’ve really played to Johnson’s strength, as he comes off quite witty on the show.
In all, I’ve got to say I’m a little disappointed with the whole package. I don’t think the book I’ve got is a strong start, but I’m hopeful the Comic Book Men will turn it around for issue 2. In the meantime, I’d call Cryptozoic Man #1 a ‘buy’ only if you’re a monster buff. Otherwise, I’d let this one sit until #2 drops next month.