Writer: Steve Niles, Benjamin Roman
Artist: Benjamin Roman
Publisher: Image Comics
This one really took a long time to get published, months at that. With a "stamped" release date six months after their first appearance (which I thought to be their first issue instead of the one-shot that it was), creators Steve Niles and Benjamin Roman bring to us once again, the mini-monster quartet that are the Cryptics: Dracula, the Sea/Swamp Monster, the Werewolf and Jekyll-Hyde. Joining the four are Death (not to be confused with the Death family from Image’s other kiddy-monster series, Death Jr.) and another funny-kiddy version of another important character from the modern monster mythos, Van Helsing, or as it in this case, little Vinny Helsing.
Unlike the first special and its short story format, this one sees the monstrous buddies involved in a single issue spanning adventure. It all starts when returning home one evening after his playtime with his friends, Wolfy the Werewolf Boy becomes the unsuspecting victim of a couple of death-agents. Sent to get a neighborhood cat, the bumbling reapers screw up and toss Wolfy into the Limbo realm, realizing too late about their folly. Whatever they do or not do (all to save their behinds from the big boss Death), Wolfy’s absence alarms his friends. Thanks to a lucky find courtesy of whiny Vinny and some nifty planning and reworking courtesy of Jackie Jekyll, the group soon find themselves in the same realm, and that too right at Death’s doorstep (literally) and that too right when Wolfy’s made his own way there. Do take note not to confuse the Death here with the Devil, for although dealing with the whole afterlife shindig, the Grim Reaper is just but a (and I quote) "low paid government worker." Even though at the end of the day everyone returns home safely, it is not without some harrowing (for the characters) and funny (for the readers) moments. There is also a nice one page semi-epilogue, dealing with the whole dog-versus-cat question.
This is a title aimed at a younger audience, and as with the characters and stories, the artwork too has a lighter, more colorful tone, even compared to Death Jr. Still, even though individually the characters may seem a bit quirky, when together they work quite well. Visually, my top two favorite are Jackie Jekyll and Drac Feratu.
Conclusion: Unlike the Death Jr. minis which are developing a sort of continuity with the second one taking after the events of the first, The Cryptics, in these one-shot special format provide an almost fresh start every time, somewhat like an Archie comicbook. While it might not make for a longer, deeper story development, this style does make it easier for a new reader to go cryptic. (Sorry, an admittedly bad pun to end a review with.)
You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net
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