Written by: Van Jensen
Art by: Pete Woods
Cryptocracy #2 picks up where its dizzying introduction ended, but only after a flashback to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Painting an interesting background for characters is an immediate fix to my sole gripe with the otherwise stellar premiere, and though new small issues pop up, they don’t prevent the follow-up from further cementing my enthusiasm for this brilliant new series.
In every way the debut was exciting, the second issue builds on it. Pete Woods’ art is better already, displaying a unique style that is both colorful yet adult, sci-fi yet relatable. The different robes of the nine families make for some striking pages, and I have no doubt I’ll soon correlate each circle’s colors with their personalities and tendencies. More details on the main draw of the comic, its lore, are handed out, sometimes a bit heavy-handedly. Other times, more enjoyably, it was just as cryptic as the last issue’s offerings. The comic works best when it follows that suit. A Lostian web of mysteries where the answers are drip-fed just fits this story too well to have Jensen second guess himself by inserting figurative neon-lit signage giving us details.
Their collective group is one built on secrecy, and therefore mistrust. This issue paints that picture very well, as we see even in the face of a common enemy (who has now been given a comic booky name), they struggle to stand together. It’s a wonder how such a group lasted as long as they have ruling from the shadows. Speaking of which, an emerging B story is beginning to track the young woman from the premiere as she slowly uncovers the truth about the shadowy leaders. Following the families, whom by all accounts should be considered the villains right now, even if they’re being hunted, is a bold move for a new IP. Comic book supervillains from the Big Two can get years of prologue as the foils to titular heroes before getting their own deserved spinoff.
Jensen has given us a deeply enigmatic world, a glossary of terms to learn on-the-fly, and tells us to root for the bad guys. They’re risky maneuvers, but so far they’ve mostly paid off very well. I still don’t know everyone’s names yet, though maybe I shouldn’t since the comic has so far been very character-heavy — and it doesn’t help that many of them wear matching robes.
Jensen clearly plotted out a lot of the confusing in-universe mythology before sitting down to begin writing the series, and if it can remain maddeningly intriguing, if he believes in his audience, there’s no doubt in my mind that Cryptocracy will emerge as one of the best new comics of the year.