By Van Jensen and Pete Woods
For a book about secrets, there’s little left to mystery as Van Jensen (The Flash) and Pete Woods (Deadpool) deliver a thoughtfully clever comic book that gives sustenance to conspiracy theories. The title of the new Dark Horse series, Cryptocracy, is a literal one, and tells a story about the hidden machinations behind the facade of reality. Just the word “conspiracy” is dark and terrible, but Jensen has written a really fun book out of the topic. In this the premier issue there’s plenty of violence and betrayal, but the writing is witty, which makes for a spirit of adventure in what is otherwise a tale of high-tech political espionage.
As it turns out, what’s really going on behind the scenes is as fantastic as the theories themselves. Nine individual secret families struggle to maintain what the rest of the world thinks is real. It’s scary to imagine things like aliens manipulating our memories to hide the truth, or advanced technology used to stifle civilization. But all of it’s true in Cryptocracy. The twist is that the secret nine families have as much internal conflict and drama as a typical dysfunctional family in business for themselves. Now, in spite of the potential to threaten their own way of life, a prophesized enemy has emerged from beyond the shadows to attack their very existence. The families are being hunted.
In telling the story, Van Jensen spares no detail in the first issue, laying out substantial groundwork for the rest of the series. Whatever may be common knowledge to the nine families is on the surface for the readers as well, and so any revelations going forward could benefit both. That’s reason enough to stick with this book.
The other reason is artist Pete Woods who creates one sensational scene after another. Not a single panel was wasted as the story escalates in repeated shifts of color. The part of the story not behind the scenes is rendered in drab, monochromatic and muted palettes, while the secret world is a saturated array of lights and effects where anything can happen. Woods capitalizes on that creative freedom. As a result the art is a driving force in this book and Woods is on par with the demands of the story’s spectacular nature.
The comic is constructed in clear, classic panel layouts with spot on, even funny dialogue beats. Characters are at times long winded but there’s a lot of information in this first issue. The panel structure brings order to the story but not without opening up so that certain scenes really shine. The characters are neatly introduced, featured even, as is the case with most of the key players.
Don’t be surprised if this book reminds you of another story, or gets you thinking about conspiracies in general. Conspiracy theories are a real thing, although they may not be evidence of something real. It doesn’t matter because wild theories and real life mysteries have an entertaining factor to them. Cryptocracy isn’t entertaining because it’s based on a brand new concept. It’s not. There are plenty of stories on the same topic, but this comic is imaginative in the way it embraces what was thought to be unreal. Use of Denver International Airport’s reputation for being cryptic and mysterious was a brilliant way to tap into the real worlds unreal elements. Van Jensen and Pete Woods are creating a solid story among some very fantastic ideas and time will tell if they keep the balance they’ve struck in the first issue. If they do, then readers are in for a ride.