In Review: Cryptocracy #1

The perfect blend of action, humor, and conspiracy. Highly enjoyable.

The cover: Grahame looks upon a hologram of the Earth. He eyes it impassively as a gigantic eye forms around the orb. The red light of the projection gives him a sinister look. Behind him several grays take notice of what he’s doing, perhaps wondering what he’ll have them scrub next. An ominous image from Pete Woods that introduces the protagonist of this series which definitely paints him in a particular light. Overall grade: A

The story: Van Jensen starts his saga with an introduction to how one of the families of this secret government works: a group of scientists were going to run a test to unlock the secrets of dark matter. Those in charge didn’t want this to happen, so Agent Shin had one of his lessers blackmail a cog, a human unaware of the ruling families, to release a mechanical creature into the scientists’ laboratory, creating a blast that would kill them during the test. This would allow “plausible cover for our media agents to push as the narrative…that once the device came online, it simply failed…and a group of the world’s leading scientists became victims of their own hubris. But…ah…our calculations on the blast impact, well…” The explosion took out two square miles of Illinois, which in the words of Grahame, a member of the Eighth Circle of the Mars family (there are nine families that rule the world), was a “Roswell-grade cock-up.” Such an explosion could cause humanity to scrutinize things and expose the family. Shinn realizes he can be killed for this fiasco, but Grahame reveals that he has concealed some things from Shinn, so the agent is moved into the Fourth Circle. The reader follows Shinn on his journey into how the family creates influence over others, as well as seeing the many varied, agents they employ. Page 10 introduces two of these agents and they provided much of the comedy of this issue. Jason is a fantastic character, and I’m going to leave it at that, while the many other individuals responsible for “scrubbing” are also excellent characters, especially seeing them in action at the bottom of 11. There is a possible problem for all the families in the form of Bela the blogger whose broadcasts continually come dangerously to the truth. How she’s dealt with is cool and she’s obviously going to have a face-to-face with Grahame at some point. Speaking of whom, Grahame personally gets involved in a situation that demonstrates more technology of the families and who is worthy of their protection. The last five pages introduces the key antagonist of the series and this looks to be extremely interesting. This is an entertaining story that holds a lot of promise. I’m a fan of stories that throw a lot at the reader and explain as they go along (Don’t get me started on how the Legion of Super-Heroes “Five Years Later” saga is one of the best in comics), and this book throws much at the reader. In fact, the inside front cover contains a cheat sheet on how on all nine levels to the Cryptocracy. Because of this, I was constantly going back and forth between it and the story to see what each level contained. If it were absent, I probably would have been okay; still, it interfered with my reading. When all is said and done, I want more. Overall grade: A

The art: The depth of this secret world is sensationally brought to life by Pete Woods. The first page features a father and son playing catch outside their house; a story doesn’t get more humdrum than this. Yet Woods makes this look amazing. Look at the unbelievable amount of detail in the second and third panels showing each of the characters. Not only do the characters look terrific, the settings behind each is fully rendered — a rarity in comic books! The first panel on the page and the circular close up in the sixth panel are a small taste of the technological wonders that Woods is going to show the reader. The explosion that’s the full paged splash of 4 is also a mere morsel of the epic scale that Woods will later reveal. This book depends on several factors to match the scope of the story, and one of them are the lush settings. One of these is shown on 6. It’s only shown on this one page, but Woods moves the point of view around so much it gives the location an aristocratic elegant feel, while so much decadence is occurring: I don’t think I’ve been so impressed with iron balusters in a comic before. The Mars headquarters is a techie’s dream, with the agents that work in stunning: I really want to see more of those individuals in the bottom of 7, and much more of Jason and those he oversees. Grahame’s action sequence is incredibly exciting and I’m really looking forward to seeing Woods illustrate more of the family’s tech. The design of the character that does damage to the Jupiter family is interesting, though given the technological state of the families, his look is the only option to show his opposition to what they represent. The visuals on this book are incredibly detailed and can be poured over again and again. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Given all the technology used in this book, the colors have to assist the art to show how far beyond the known world they are. Pete Woods is coloring his own work and it looks tremendous. The book opens with the normal colors of the known world, but morph into the world of technological fantasy when the Hydra is released, using light blues and hot pinks to show the mechanical creature. Computer screens on Page 5 use sickly greens to show the fallout of the explosion, rather than the expected neon blues — an excellent change of pace. 9 shows holograms looking as if they were created from light, but colors are used to show differentiation in them, rather than the monotone Star Wars blues. Violets are used for sensational effect on 10 – 12. The colors really bring the fantasy elements to life. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, computer text, sounds, signage, the unique font of several individuals introduced on 10, transmissions during Bela’s broadcast, and the tease for next issue are from the Nate Piekos of Blambot. He is a letterer whose work always stands out superbly and this issue shows why he’s a talent: the computer texts look great, the individuals on 10 have a dialogue font that’s wonderfully unique for their race, and the sounds are sensational. Piekos is always gold. Overall grade: A+

The final line: A must read for fans of conspiracy theories and science fiction. A solid injection of humor keeps the story from getting overly serious and the visuals are absolutely sumptuous. The perfect blend of action, humor, and conspiracy. Highly enjoyable. Overall grade: A 

To learn more about this book go to http://www.darkhorse.com/Comics

To purchase a hard copy of this book go to http://www.tfaw.com/

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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