This second issue of the conspiracy series is entitled "Feint" and opens with a nice overview of the nine families that make up the Cryptocracy. It looks very similar to the splash page on issue one, which similarly explained the nine circles. Man, nine circles, nine families, who could possibly keep up with such complexity. Anyway I digress… This overview provides insight into the war between the families with the rest of the book showing us how they move people like human pawns in their global chess game. It’s revealed that Mars is the most powerful of the nine families, headed by the old and withering Nick who continues to train his successor Grahame, one of the central characters in issue one. There are some evocative panels showing them both in their younger years and the role the Mars family played in Pearl Harbour. It rather stuns one to silence and leaves a real lingering sense of despair and horror at the things one human can do to another. You really have to give points to both the writing of Van Jensen and the pencils of Pete Wood here, but alas the rest of the comic isn’t quite as strong.
It is a better overall book than issue one. There’s a different tone with more focus on action than mystery, which works rather well. Reeling from the attack of the mysterious Hum on the nine families, the Elders have convened to plan their next move.
Who is this would be assassin?
How does he know of the ancient prophecies?
Another name is thrown into the mix too, Chronos, Hum’s master. The inevitable cross-family bickering ensues when suddenly the inimitable Hum appears in a giant ball of light and declares his real name, The Harbinger. Well this doesn’t sound good. The families are powerless against him as his mysterious cryptid companions, revealed later to be Mothmen (epic groan) cut through the crowd, leaving bloody destruction in their wake. A few manage to escape, including Nick of the Mars family and our main protagonist Grahame. It appears he hasn’t tumbled quite far enough down the rabbit hole as the final ninth circle is revealed and in turn, the truth of the ancient prophecies. All in all, quite an action packed book and these last few pages were quite fun. Pete Woods really managed to draw you in with his artwork here but in other areas things were a little hit and miss. It almost gave me an Aladdin vibe at times, particularly in the depiction of Hum. Suffice it to say, that isn’t an aesthetic I particularly enjoy. Everything just lacks a little texture and depth, the environments feel quite flat and two dimensional at times, which is a real shame.
My final complaint is that all those fantastic pop culture references and outlandish character designs from the first issue seem to have taken a backseat this time around. Those were some of the strongest elements! I implore you Mr. Jensen, please bring them back. You can have fun and tell your conspiracy tale, I promise. Saying that, I would like to compliment him on his excellent writing shown in the Journal of Farrel Fain on the final few pages. This was exceptionally well written and added an extra dimension to the story, shame it was relegated to end of the book. I’m struggling to find reasons to recommend this story, if you enjoy the genre then go for it, there’s still a mystery to unfold here but is it one you can necessarily be bothered to stick around for?
[su_box title="Score: 3/5" style="glass" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
Cryptocracy #2 Writer: Van Jensen Artist: Pete Woods Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital