(Dynamite Entertainment, 2013)
Review by Shawn Warner
STORY BY: Walt Flanagan & Bryan Johnson
SCRIPT BY: Walt Flanagan
ARTWORK BY: Walt Flanagan
I first became aware of Cryptozoic Man like most people when Stan Lee was recruited to pitch the idea to Dynamite on an episode of the AMC series Comic Book Men. The premise seemed so outlandish that I really thought it was a scripted part of the show. However Dynamite agreed to publish it and months later I found myself face to face with Walt, Brian, Mike and Ming at the Baltimore Comic-Con getting my Con exclusive copy of Cryptozoic Man #1 signed by the Comic Book Men. As a regular viewer of the show and fan of Walt Flanagan’s collaborative efforts with Kevin Smith (the two worked on a couple of really solid Batman miniseries, Cacophony and The Widening Gyre) I was anxious to dive into this improbable sounding comic book. As I handed my book to Walt for his signature I warned him that I would most likely be reviewing his work but assured him that it was not he who should be worried, as I am quite familiar with his work but rookie comic book scribe and fellow Comic Book Man Bryan Johnson who should be afraid… Be very afraid, but like his three compatriots, Johnson is a heck of a nice guy and took my good natured ribbing in the spirit in which I intended. I had seen the guys the previous day at their panel which was moderated by friend and Smith protégé Jason Mewes and despite horrendous sound system problems they managed to be engrossing, endearing and entertaining, what more can you ask for from a bunch of comic book geeks from New Jersey?, asked the comic book geek from Baltimore.
The narrative centers on Alan Ostman, a regular working class husband and father who sees his regular working class life spiral out of control when his daughter disappears while on a camping trip in the Pacific Northwest. This is just the beginning of Ostman’s nightmarish journey into the unthinkable as he is then abducted by bulbous headed gray aliens from a roadside redneck tavern. It is during his abduction that he learns that the fate of the world rests precariously on the capture of history’s most legendary cryptids, oh yeah and he has to defeat a levitating pig-faced psychotic that looks like he stepped out of Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin run. However he is quite tame in appearance when compared to Ostman after he becomes the Cryptozoic Man at which time he possesses the attributes of; the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, Mothman, the Abominable Snowman and Chupacabra, a startling array of appendages to say the least. In addition to the floating pig-masked man Ostman also has to contend with various demonic creatures… and this is just the first issue.
I read this book with absolutely no expectations, I knew it was not a serious comic book and thought it would be good for a laugh if nothing else boy was I surprised at just how much I enjoyed reading it. The story was interesting however I would have liked to learn more about Cryptozoic Man’s origin. I hope that Johnson delves into that in successive issues and fully fleshes out the character. The creepy tone and ethereal subject matter brought to mind the X Files but if the show had been directed by Rob Zombie. Johnson proves that he can write an entertaining, fast paced comic book with a mysterious and intriguing main character.
Visually Walt Flanagan nails the eerie feel of this book with character designs that look straight out of a science fiction nightmare. His Cryptozoic Man is disturbing and grotesque while somehow retaining something of his human nature. The Pig-Faced villain is particularly unsettling with his truly frightening mask and strange pink suit. Flanagan is an accomplished artist; some of his pages really stand out as examples of dynamic layout designs. His use of bio-mechanical borders on one page comes to mind as an effective design element as does his use of overlapping panels. The book has the feel of an old Tales from the Crypt story which is perfect with Halloween just around the corner.
All in all I quite enjoyed this book; it was fun without ever taking itself too serious or serious at all for that matter. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this four issue mini-series and finding out the fate of Alan Ostman as well as learning more about Cryptozoic Man and the macabre cast of characters. I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone but if you enjoy a little creepiness in your comics perhaps you would enjoy Cryptozoic Man. I give it a terrifying 3 out of 5 and suggest putting it on your Halloween pull list. So until next time, see you at the comic book store.
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629