REVIEW: The Creep #0

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The Creep #0 collects three episodes from the pages of Dark Horse Presents, setting the stage for a four issue miniseries starting in September. Is this issue so very special? Major Spoilers has the review.

THE CREEP #0
Written by: John Arcudi
Art by: Jonathan Case
Lettering by: Nate Piekos
Cover by: Frank Miller
Editors: Scott Allie and Daniel Chabon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $2.99

Previously, in The Creep: This is issue zero, so nothing in this story has happened previously, but this book does collect the three chapters found in Dark Horse Presents #11-#13. If you have those already, you’ve read this.

GOTTA CREEP, CREEP

The Creep revives John Arcudi’s character from the anthology series Dark Horse Presents original run in the 1990s. Protagonist Oxel Karnhaus is a private eye who comes with the usual noir emotional baggage, with the added complication of acromegaly. PIs with tortured pasts are a dime a dozen, but Arcudi’s rendition of Oxel has a spark of life that elevates The Creep even as it plays with common noir tropes. There is no action in these pages beyond an errant firecracker, no fired guns other than that wielded by a suicidal teen. This is the story of everyday, real world tragedy and loss. The case that compels Oxel is a tricky one; a former college sweetheart sends a letter out of the blue, asking him to investigate the suicide of her teenage son and son’s friend. The case is heavy with the weight of the past, as Oxel doggedly pursues leads even as he is unable to see his one-time love, unwilling to present her with the altered physicality resulting from his medical condition.

Arcudi’s script deals in dark emotions familiar to anyone who has suffered loss, with a studied sensitivity which will wring real emotion from the reader. There is a bit of dialogue that absolutely killed me. As Oxel’s old flame tries to communicate a complexity of regret and doubt regarding the abusive man she chose over him, Oxel remarks simply and painfully. “Let’s not… it’s life, you know? It’s just life.” In that little piece of naturalistic dialogue, Arcudi captures all the wealth of contradictions and feeling that painful memories can bring. The way Oxel reacts to the everyday strangers who react to his physical presence is similarly affecting, and meaningfully written. The Creep never descends into the maudlin. It feels very true.

“HOW COULD THERE EVER BE ENOUGH?”

Just as Arcudi’s script is packed with little character details, similarly is Jonathan Case’s art. This is an issue which trusts and rewards a reader; elements like an eight-ball jacket or a newspaper splashed with a recovering Gipper sets the period without the need for any explication. Case works the panels like a good film editor, overlapping narration with seemingly unrelated character moments to provide a greater depth than a straight rendition would provide. He employs different styles to different scenes with great effect. The halcyon past and hallucinatory fantasies are painted in pastel watercolors, juxtaposed against gray, grim dullness of the present. The Creep is a rare example of an artist perfectly matched with the writer; the result is tonal harmony.

CHECK IT OUT

The Creep #0 is an expertly executed, character-driven noir comic that stacks up with anything on the stands right now. The mystery this issue sets up is still largely unexplored. Two boys have committed suicide, and beyond that, not much is known. This issue traffics in dark stuff – suicide, mental illness, abuse and regret, but it does so with an emotional sensitivity and honesty that ensures every moment is earned. With an artist and writer working together in synch, a compelling mystery, and a fully realized protagonist, The Creep is a miniseries to watch out for. The Creep #0 earns a rare, near-perfect four and a half out of five stars.

Rating: ★★★★½