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I didn’t know much about Dark Horse’s The Creep when I walked into my local comic shop, just that Frank Miller had done some killer cover art for it. Completely ignoring years of being told to never judge a book by its cover, I grabbed an issue off the rack with as much reckless abandon as the act of purchasing a comic book would allow. After bringing it home and reading it, I submit that the phrase be changed to, “Don’t judge a book by its cover… unless that cover was drawn by the legendary Frank Miller. In which case, buy that book immediately, because chances are it’s going to be epic.”
“The Creep #0” literally starts off with a bang, depicting a young boy in his room committing suicide with a gun. Though police have already closed the case, the boy’s mother, Stephanie, writes a letter to an old college friend she learned had since become a private investigator. The P.I. is Oxel, a homely man afflicted by a rare disease called acromegaly, which causes his body several deformities. Stephanie hasn’t seen Oxel since before his disease kicked in and is unaware of his condition. Oxel returns her letter with a phone call. His acromegaly also causes his voice to be distorted, which Stephanie inquires about. Oxel seems unready to reveal he’s no longer the handsome man she knew in college and passes it off as a cold. He accepts the case.
While the focus of the narrative is based predominantly on the mystery behind the young boy’s death, writer John Arcudi spends a large portion of the issue fleshing out Oxel and Stephanie’s interactions, both with each other and the world around them. When following Oxel, we see everything from a group of young men throwing fire crackers at him on the street to a curious young girl on a train unable to stop staring. Though desperate and lonely, Oxel is determined to be a good man in a world that labels him a creep. This element is truly engaging and will continue to be one of the major draws to the book.
Stephanie’s interpersonal relationships aren’t fairing much better. She informed Oxel that she and her husband had gotten a divorce. She loosely keeps in touch with a woman whose son, Mike, was friends with her own son. Oxel pays her a visit, and we find out that Mike also committed suicide just two months before Stephanie’s son. When investigating some of Mike’s belongings, Oxel discovers several doodles of a woman and a collection of bear drawings. Furthermore, since neither of the boy’s dads were in the picture, Stephanie’s own father filled the role for both boys, occasionally taking them hunting. Oxel finds Stephanie’s father at a shelter, impoverished and grief stricken, hallucinating about hunting bears. How any of this has led to Stephanie’s son’s suicide, if at all, is purposefully left unclear.
While it was Frank Miller’s cover that had hooked me to The Creep, it was Jonathan Case’s interior art that reeled me in. The main players are all depicted wonderfully. Each facial expression is believable and each motion of the body is fluid, but what really sets Case’s work apart is his use of color. He masterfully depicts Oxel’s modern day life with a cold pallet of blues and grays that stir up feelings of grief and pity. On the other hand, his flashbacks to his college days with Stephanie, as well as every time Stephanie herself is shown throughout the book are always splashed with a wide bouquet of warmer colors, while characters like Stephanie’s friend and Stephanie’s father are not. Since Oxel never actually meets up with Stephanie in this issue, it could be interpreted that this is how Oxel perceives Stephanie to be, a one-time source of happiness in an otherwise cruel, cold world and perhaps his only chance of finding it again.
Fans of complicated detective cases and strong character pieces alike will find plenty to admire about this series. “The Creep #0” is bursting with copious amounts of mystery and heart and would be a welcome addition to any pull list.