Cryptopia is one of those comic book series that rarely comes along. It combines the best elements of classic comics, namely flashy adventure, rough-edged heroes, hot babes, impossible monsters and overwhelming obstacles. At its heart, though, this series is all about its central character. Doc Savage became an iconic pulp action-adventure hero in the 1930s and Indiana Jones revived the genre in the ’80s. Taking their cue and sensibilities from both those heroes, co-creators Benjamin Raab and Pat Quinn give us Dr. Shannon Elizabeth Palmer, the embodiment of the classic pulp character firmly set in the here and now. Basically, imagine if the action-adventure serial had been created in 2012. That’s Cryptopia in its basic form, but it is much cooler than that.
The series utilizes a well-known, yet very effective storytelling technique. The first few pages give us an ongoing look at the aftermath of an expedition gone catastrophically wrong before flashing back to show us just what happened. In the beginning, down-on-her luck Dr. Palmer is recruited the suave Dumont to head up a mission into the unknown. Unlike the meagerly funded trips of her apparently checkered past, Dumont promises the Dr. that no expense will be spared. As any fan of Jurassic Park knows, that type of phrasing foreshadows disaster. Indeed, soon after embarking on the mission with Palmer’s hand-picked team plus her ex-love interest, not to mention state of the art vehicles and technology, the team encounters its first hurdle in the form of…well, you should really read it yourself to find out.
Raab and Quinn make a perfect comic book creative team. Benjamin Raab, a contemporary of the likes of Joe Kelley and Brian K. Vaughan, has written comics for Marvel, DC, Moonstone, WildStorm and many others. Additionally, he has dipped his quill into episodic television, specifically for the highly popular Syfy series Warehouse 13. In short, Raab is a master of well-crafted, exceptionally written dramatic stories with a witty flair. In Cryptopia, the dialogue flows, the pace is perfect and the characters are dynamically fresh while harkening back to familiar archetypes.
Of course, comic books being a visual medium, the best written comics are only as good as the artist. Thankfully, Raab has teamed up with Pat Quinn. Quinn has been honing his skills as a cover artist while doing short assignments for a while now. He’s always been been one of those whose covers make you ache for him to do interiors on a regular basis. He dabbled with some pages for Moonstone on The Phantom, which is where he presumably met Raab. Quinn has a great handle on characters, reminding me of early Bill Willingham, while drawing some truly larger than life and terrifying monsters. Significantly, his visual storytelling sensibilities match up perfectly with Raab’s words to make this comic book pop. I hope to see this creative team-up together for a long while.
Cryptopia is an adventure, wrapped in a mystery, inside a cryptozoological thrill-ride. This is a series that should be on your must-read list. The third issue is out soon (we’ll preview it for you in a couple of weeks) and here’s how you can pick up the first two:
ISSUES 1 & 2
BARNES & NOBLE NOOK: