Written by: Van Jensen
Art by: Pete Woods
I’m not always deeply embedded in the culture surrounding comic books. My pull list is made up of a few series I really enjoy, but if I’m not following those, I don’t always have an ear to the ground when it comes to things debuting on the horizon. Having recently begun reviewing comics just a few months ago (previously and currently I specialized in video games), I took a chance on a new issue #1 to see if I could be drawn into a new series, both to read for my own enjoyment and to assign myself a new monthly series for GWW. I needed it to be a new series for what may be obvious reasons — no missing continuity, no complicated histories I’ve missed over the past years or even decades of back issues. I found one a few months ago. The name drew me in immediately. Cryptocracy, Van Jensen’s sci-fi action comic has immediately proven to be well worth my time. I didn’t know what I was getting into, and the nature of the subject matter ensures I’m still figuring that out, a little more each week. Because I’m lacking in the ability to take the comic world’s pulse, I don’t actually know if this comic is an under-the-radar hit, a super popular new franchise, or on the verge of being pulled from the shelves. I’m hoping it’s anything but the latter, because the series is really wowing me both visually and with its writing through three issues.
Cryptocracy #3 continues the trend set by the last issue in picking up precisely where its predecessor left off. This sort of pacing is indicative of the breakneck speed the first trio have introduced as a whole. There’s no lack of on-page action so far. In this third issue, Grahame learns of the specifics surrounding the Nine Prophecies, which, to his terror, seem to be coming to fruition around the world for all to see, including his family of globalized puppeteers. It remains one of the most interesting facets of the story that we are seeing events unfold from both sides, and each of them believe they are the heroes of the story. This is made even more evident when the murderous masterminds behind all the world’s governments refer to Hum, their recently discovered nemesis, as “an ancient evil.” It reminds us that, unlike in a lot of superhero comics where villains act as they do out of revenge or some sort of mental illness, the “bad guys” in Cryptocracy just genuinely believe how they control the world from the shadows is the right thing to do. In this way, they’re much like the Templars in the Assassin’s Creed series of games and comics.
The art style, with its apparent mix of hand drawn and computerized illustrations, continues to be another strong component of the series. The color palette and the use of digital effects give panels an almost 3D style, as weird as that may sound. This neon-infused, electric scheme is a perfect pairing with the sci-fi focus. Characters are beginning to be fleshed out now, which has been my only major gripe with the story so far. I love the A and B plots unfolding side by side. On one hand, the Families are left scrambling as their order and rule is deeply threatened, and on the other we see a sort of every-woman who is digging into the figurative whispers she is hearing. She’s relatable because we’ve all been on the internet reading about conspiracies, cryptids, or cover-ups at some point in our lives. Unfortunately, I still don’t know her name yet. This might be my mistake or maybe it hasn’t been stated yet, but off the top of my head I can’t yet identify by name one of the main characters, so in that way, I think the story still has a ways to go in defining roles and making us care more about them.
There’s so much to learn about the world Jensen is building, which makes having it drip-fed surprisingly satisfying. With each issue, we learn more of the complex mythology and the wide cast of characters. My only complaint in this issue is that some moments felt like they’re happening so fast that it’s hard to follow at times but the pacing is fitting for the story. After all, a group’s “world” is crumbling beneath them, figuratively and sometimes literally. But I think the accelerator could be let up just a little to focus in on the gravity of situations a bit more. That would really sell the chaos better, I believe. Aside from that, however, this third issue cements Cryptocracy as a must-read that, if not already immensely popular, damn well should be.