By Bryan Johnson, Walter Flanagan, Chris Ivy, & Wayne Jansen
Announced last year on AMC’s hit Comic Book Men show, Cryptozoic Man is the new mini-series from creators Bryan Johnson and Walter Flanagan. While many will undoubtedly cry nepotism given their close friendship with famous director Kevin Smith, who has also written a number of titles for Dynamite Entertainment, this is not their first foray into the world of comic book creation. These two have previously collaborated on Karney and War of the Undead, both mini-series published by IDW, while Flanagan has provided artwork for a Batman book from DC Comics. With that being said, Cryptozoic Man feels like a much more ambitious project with a wild concept.
The story of Cryptozoic Man is relatively difficult to distill into a brief summary, particularly since issue #1 felt so enigmatic and cryptic. However, the overall execution of this first installment exceeded all expectations for the title, while providing an incredibly intriguing introduction. Furthermore, the pacing and organization of the plot was done with masterful precision, while simultaneously feeling different. Admittedly, there were moments where the story felt quite murky and the issue ended on a somewhat confusing note. However, the entire book was a thoroughly enjoyable read which really hooks the reader in with a multitude of strange mysteries waiting to be examined in future installments. The strange moments in the opening of the issue, and seen again later in the book, which focus on seemingly random individuals provide an additional layer of intrigue and horror. The narration throughout Cryptozoic Man #1 is pure poetry; the writing is incredibly deep and thought-provoking, and actually feels vaguely reminiscent of Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing. Bryan Johnson’s writing is presented as fantastic allusion to the underpinnings of this tale which lurks beneath the surface, while emphasizing the dark nature of the story. While seemingly a fairly simple concept, the Cryptozoic Man himself is only the beginning of the bizarre plot that has begun to unfold; alien interventions, famous monsters of legend associated with portals to other dimensions, bizarrely grotesque creatures roaming the streets, all presented along with an emotionally-driven underpinning to the protagonist’s saga.
The artwork in this first installment was just as pleasantly surprising as the writing. Walter Flanagan is joined by Chris Ivy on inks and Wayne Jansen on colors. A number of pencilled works from Flanagan have been seen in the past, which show him to be a more-than-capable illustrator. However, the artists working together on this book clearly make an incredible team. The sharp, clean illustrations make for some very vivid images while these guys have not spared any attention to detail. The crisp images are further enhanced by some excellent panel layouts. While the paneling itself was a great addition to Cryptozoic Man #1, the additional artwork provided around the panels on a number of pages further emphasize the passion that has been put into this book. When the title character is battling horrific creatures the panels are ringed in blood spatter, while his alien surgery is surrounded by some interesting extraterrestrial technology which is itself placed over top of a dark, hazy background. The vibrant colors used throughout this issue further enhance the realism and overall atmosphere of the story, while similarly providing additional attention to detail. Finally, the strange moments which focus on seemingly random individuals are presented with a much more “painted” appearance which just looks fantastic and has a very “horror” sensibility to it.
While good things were expected from this book, Cryptozoic Man #1 exceeded expectations both in terms of writing and art. The visuals are magnificent, both elegant and creepy at the same time. The story thus far is presented with a great deal more depth than originally anticipated; every aspect of the plot is interesting and presented with an intelligent, poetic sensibility. This four-issue mini-series looks like it has a lot of ground to cover with its plot before the end, but given the introduction, I’d say this team is more than capable of completing the task before them.