Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Van Jensen
Artist: Pete Woods
Release Date: 27th July, 2016
Cryptocracy started with one hell of a bang. Behind the politicians and the world’s movers-and-shakers lies a secret organisation. Led by nine ruling families, each supported by nine circles of supporters (both informed and unaware), they orchestrate key events within society to their own ends. At first glance untouchable, the first book climaxed with the death of Babak, the Jupiter family’s elder. The second commences as the aftershocks are felt throughout the remaining families and they meet to begin their investigations. Amidst the finger-pointing and name-calling, the meeting is interrupted by an unexpected (and unwelcome) guest.
Writer Van Jensen continues to unapologetically weave his complex universe in the second issue, with little time for explanations or reminders. The exposition dumping remains high, but, barring a single clumsy exchange at the start of the book (you’ll know it when you read it), the delivery is smooth and, amidst all the intrigue and mystery, you’re unlikely to feel the weight of it. The dialogue isn’t perfect mind you, but when the story is this engaging and the setting so intricate, who cares?
One of the book’s strengths is its root in reality. There are fantastical elements to the series for sure, but ultimately it is our world that provides the stage for Jensen’s characters. The status and characteristics of the nine ruling families are clearly reflective of the nine superpowers they represent. Real-life historic events, like Roswell, are mentioned in passing. Yes, there’s something uncomfortable in using Pearl Harbour and the atrocities that followed in Japan as a plot device, but perhaps that’s the point. Cryptocracy is a vehicle for passing comment on our world and the horrors we’ve wreaked upon one another for ‘the greater good’, and Jensen clearly doesn’t intend to sugar-coat it.
Woods’ artwork is the perfect companion for the story. His depictions of the violent scenes within the book are visceral and don’t shy away from the grim realities of death and destruction. Then there are the characters, whose facial expressions are ridiculously well-rendered and serve to well-and-truly hook the reader into the story. My only critique is the action sequences; those involving Chronos’ Hum aren’t as fluid as they perhaps could be and are at times hard to follow. It’s a minor quibble, however, in an otherwise good-looking book.
Cryptocracy feels like a series that will continue to surprise the reader far beyond the first few issues. There are so many layers to unpeel. Through Grahame, we discover there are secrets within the Mars family that even an upper-circle pion doesn’t know about. This issue may not have the same punch as the first in terms of plot development, but it’s certainly exciting and I for one can’t wait for the next one.
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The writer of this piece was: Claire Stevenson
Claire Tweets from @cookie___raider.