One of the things that’s delighted me the most about the return of “Dark Horse Presents” is the re-launching of “The Creep,” John Arcudi’s comic about a private investigator with acromegaly (where an excess of growth hormone causes enlarged features and height). After three chapters ran in the anthology title (collected as “The Creep” #0) the story has continued in a four-issue mini-series, and two issues in I’ve found myself falling in love with the character of Oxel Karnhus.
As Oxel continues to investigate the death of a teenage boy (and his best friend six months earlier), it’s easy to appreciate the way that Arcudi keeps the story from ever being easy. By the end of the first issue Arcudi had planted some potential clues on why Curtis and Mike killed themselves; with this issue, he promptly throws in more pieces of evidence that disrupt that nice and easy idea. Like any real investigation, it’s something that can’t be solved with just a hunch, and as Oxel interviews and tracks down people, the big picture continues to expand.
As for Oxel himself, Arcudi doesn’t paint him in an angelic light. I like that he’s someone who has a lot of faults but is still a good guy overall. Every bit that we see about him — drunken late night calls being just the tip of the iceberg — gives us a better look into what his life is like. You end up feeling a little sorry for him, but not because of his deformities, but rather because of his out-of-place way that he moves through the world. It’s a rough road that he walks on, but to his credit the times he stumbles he gets right back up.
Jonathan Case is the artist for the current “The Creep” mini-series, and his drawings push Arcudi’s script into overdrive. Most of the art is crisp and meticulous; good portraits of people and their surroundings. What sends it over the edge, though, is how Case uses his art to show the difference between reality and what characters are imagining. The lines get looser, the colors more vibrant, a strange mixture of sketch and painting. It’s a great technique, and it’s used everywhere from hallucinations to imagining the other end of a phone call. It’s a great idea, and Arcudi and Case end up using the strengths of the comic medium to their advantage.
With “The Creep” Arcudi and Case have created a compelling detective story that grabs you. Each new installment just gets stronger, and if anything it just makes the wait that much more frustrating. This is an excellent comic that you should be reading; if you haven’t seen it up until now, take a look for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.