By Wilson Taylor
Disclaimer: The reviewer, Wilson Taylor, is also published under the Alterna Comics label. These opinions are solely the opinion of the reviewer and do not represent the creators of Croak or of Alterna Comics.
I've actually been kind of dreading this review. Out of nowhere the Croak #1 review became my most viewed review on Comic Bastards and perhaps technically my most well-known piece of super-obscure writing. The moment I realized it was getting attention, I began internally begging writer Corey Sousa to knock the rest of the issues out of the park because what I had praised in Croak #1 was its promise of intrigue and I had specifically noted that it was building a particularly fragile house of cards. So how does #2 stand up?
Well, it's something of a slow hitter. It didn't smash my expectations to bloody little bits like the first issue, after all how could it, it's issue #2, but after some reflection, this story's building up even better than I anticipated. Thank God.
Full disclosure: I wrote this review twice. The first was an admission of Croak #2's dip in quality. My worry was that, much like Thin #1, the story was using an interesting (or at least out-there in Thin's case) jumping-off point to descend into boiler-plate horror storytelling. I noted that it was still a perfectly fine horror comic and still had the seeds of greatness, but felt all-too-familiar.
It was my aversion to standard horror storytelling that, ironically, kept me from seeing the smartest parts of Croak. The story of Croak was clearly focusing on one character, rather than a group of teenagers, in issue one and it shows even more here. The ramifications of that singular character's actions only compound themselves in Croak #2's climax.
Croak #1 ends with the main female character bashing in her friend's skull due to a monster-related delusion of being attacked. I found this to be refreshing and disturbing all at once. The climax of Croak #2 only serves to compound every feeling, every emotion and every bit of stinging trauma that the first issue's climax brought with it.
This is fridge horror. A scenario in which, just like Croak #1, I was convinced that the implications of that first horrific act were going to follow her into her grave and in Croak #2, a climax I had, at first, found myself disappointed by, came into focus as I returned to Croak #1's ending.
Or, to put it simply, by the end of Croak #1, the character of Aubrey is fucked. By the end of Croak #2, she's double-fucked.
To focus on any character besides Aubrey is a mortal sin because none of the other characters are interesting in the slightest, nor was Aubrey before the story got moving at the end of #1, but thankfully that's the opposite of what Croak is doing. Croak is actually using its horror-setting elements to focus the narrative down to its most interesting seed.
I have my gripes of course, the blonde character, whose name I realize now and not after looking it up again in the comic is Tim, makes what seems to be the exact same facial expression for the entire story, a grimace that sinks into his dimples, the art seems to have been rushed a little here in this second issue, but not to a hugely noticeable degree, the characters being mostly ciphers and cutouts aside from the clearly main character are important for keeping focus on the most interesting aspect in its short 4-issue run but I'm not exactly sad to see any of them go.
All in all, Croak #2 amounts to more fantastic build-up to a story that is promising with all its might to be interesting. In fact, it seems to be a testament to the fact that the creators actually know what they're doing and what made issue #1 good in the first place.
Okay, fine, Croak #2. I'm into it. You win. This is an interesting little yarn you've created. Stick the landng.
Writer: Cody Andrew Sousa
Artist: Francesco Iaquinta
Colorist: Chris O'Halloran
Publisher: Alterna Comics