I had high hopes for this series going in. I’m a fan of filmmaker Kevin Smith (judge me if you must) and by proxy the AMC reality series which takes place in his Red Bank, NJ comic book store The Secret Stash. COMIC BOOK MEN may not be as real as reality, but it is at least as real as other reality shows of its ilk. It is something of a PAWN STARS for the geek community, populated by wise-asses and misanthropes.
It was in an episode of COMIC BOOK MEN that the concept of the comic book series Cryptozoic Man was first introduced to America, and pitched to the folks at Dynamite Comics. They agreed to publish it, with scripts by Bryan Johnson and art by Walt Flanagan (whom also comprise two-thirds of the podcast Tell ‘Em Steve Dave, on Kevin Smith’s Smodcast podcast network, which I am not a listener of). Some character concepts may have been contributed to by Ming Chen and Mike Zapcic—but all of this is background noise and neither here nor there in relation to the actual product, which admittedly has an interesting concept.
Bryan Johnson was quoted as such in the original press release: “What do you call a man who’s lost everything, a race of creepy extraterrestrials, a psychopath who sports a bondage-style, leather pig mask, a dimension choc-a-bloc full of nightmarish creatures, as well as Bigfoot, El Chupachabra, and a host of other cryptids? You call it Cryptozoic Man! It’s a delicious monstery stew..”
The man in question is Alan Ostman, whose young daughter vanishes while they are camping in the woods. He’s then kidnapped by aliens, basically torn in half down the middle, and stitched back together with elements taken from Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the Jersey Devil. They then dispatch him to kill mythical creatures (such as the ones that comprise half of his body), promising to reunite father and daughter if he does their bidding.
Unfortunately, the only mythical creature we ever see him fight is the aforementioned guy in a pig mask, who’s not really mythical and who’s not really a creature. Nor do they fight all that much, to be honest. Instead, Piggy helps him unravel the mysteries of his origin, his true purpose, and the shadowy nature of the universe—or some such nonsense. Truth be told, it unravels in such a nonlinear fashion at such breakneck speed, incorporating endless amounts of pseudoscience and straight-up gibberish, there was never any chance of it making a lot of sense.
I’m all for world-building and crafting a mythos, but that’s something you have to build up to. Something you have to earn. This isn’t the origin story of a new hero. This is the secret origin—the story behind the story—and those are only of interest if you care about the character. And nobody is invested in the character enough to care after only a few pages, even if the story was comprehensible.
Cryptids. Aliens. Dimensional portals. Amber alerts. Mad science. Talking balloons. There’s a lot here, enough for a few dozen issue, easily. Unfortunately, it’s all crammed into a mere 4 issues, and is incessantly tripping over its own feet as it races for the finish line. Some of the artwork is cool, and will appeal to many monster fans. I just wish the story was stronger, and you know…coherent.
Start simple. Build from there.