Jean Jensen — also an artist — has been intimately familiar with the writer of Cryptocracy for more than three decades, seeing as she raised him. Her son, Van Jensen, wrote this new creator-owned series after years of scripting The Flash, Green Lantern Corps and Pinocchio Vampire Slayer. In reviewing this title — a thrilling exploration of clandestine organisations, paranoia and conspiracies illustrated by Pete Woods — we could not think of a reviewer with more insight into its origins than Jean Jensen, ethics be damned.
There are those who believe that the people behind the scenes are pulling the strings of the world. Some people think they are scarce off their game, whereas others believe that they know exactly what they are talking about. In Cryptocracy #1 from Dark Horse Comics the strings are apparently being pulled by the people behind the scenes.
For a time ahead of human memory, the Nine Families watched from the shadows, believing themselves shepherds and manipulating entire societies as they saw fit. Nothing happened that they did not observe or control. Outsiders knew nought of the Families, much less threatened them.
The premise of an Illuminati-like organisation pulling the strings of the world certainly is not anything new, but Van Jensen puts his own spin on things. In that regard, Cryptocracy #1 feels kind of refreshing in that aspect as it mixes in a few new concepts that make the story relatively freakish. There are some issues though with the overall organisation of the plot as Van Jensen skips around quite a bit in a way that feels slightly erratic. By the end of the issue the reader has a better understanding of the overall picture, but getting to that point requires some pretty deafening leaps in logic that are not necessarily intuitive. Van Jensen’s dialogue is solid thoughout and offers enough hooks for the reader to grab onto.
Cryptocracy #1 rascals a look that borders on Saturday morning cartoonish. Pete Woods’ approach with the character designs relies on light, angular body types that emphasise various viewpoints of the human physique. This style allows the characters to appear clean and defined against the more simple geometric backgrounds. There is something of a jarring transition in art style early on the book, and it gives the reader the impression that a different story is kicking off at that point. The colours are vibrant and provide a sense of awe in some of the scenes as many of which provide some lighting effects that accentuate various locales.
The nine families in Cryptocracy #1 have all been keeping each other at an arm’s length via an unsteady armistice, but that is all about to be broken by an interloper. That interloper is seemingly all-powerful and gives the story a great direction go in. Van Jensen’s plot is a little loose at the beginning, but it is evident by the end he knows where he wants to go. The artwork by Pete Woods is pretty clean and enjoyable, providing plenty of interesting characters interacting with one another.
We see a hint of Van Jensen’s beliefs in the protagonist, Grahame, an agent of the secret all-controlling organisation, who risks his mission to cure a young boy, having promised the boy’s father to do so. Cryptocracy also features strong female characters, and the plot turns the readers’ expectations inside out — the shadowy rulers with all the power are actually the heroes of the story, and they come under attack from a mysterious source. Cryptocracy #1 launches on June 29th courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.