Review: THE CREEP

The Creep_HC

The Creep, cover by Tonci Zonjic

The Creep

Written by John Arcudi
Illustrated by Jonathan Case
Letters by Nate Peikos
Cover by Tonci Zonjic

136 pages / Color / $19.99

Published by Dark Horse Comics

Buy it now on Amazon.

 

Perhaps you’ve heard the peculiar tale of Rondo Hatton. Named handsomest boy of Hillsborough High, Hatton later developed into Hollywood’s go-to grotesque and a model for B-movie heavies for decades to come. Afflicted with acromegaly, a syndrome of the pituitary gland activated only after puberty, sometimes well into adulthood, Hatton’s face and extremities swelled. His skull expanded, his lower jaw jutting impossibly outward, and his hands, feet, nose and lips grew to the point of biological caricature. Lured to Hollywood in 1936, he spent the remaining ten years of his life playing Brutes and Creepers and Hoxton Horrors in thankless roles for uncaring audiences, often un-credited. His name has become synonymous with all that is ugly and monstrous, both through his disfigurement and his mistreatment.

Private Detective Oxel Karnhus didn’t always look this way. He didn’t always sweat so profusely or suffer these headaches. Oxel Karnhus walked arm in arm with glamorous Stephanie Brinke through an NYU campus, a young James Garner and his gal. They drifted apart, as young lovers often do. Nothing odd about that. Then his pituitary gland went haywire, maiming him with an overflow of human growth hormone. Now he looks like this. Sweats like this. Hurts like this. It was the pain and not the presence that forced him out of one job into his current vocation as lurking investigator. It was both that drove him to the whorehouses. He carved out a sad little niche, as comfortable a warren as a mug like Oxel could manage.

Then Stephanie’s kid put a gun in his mouth and pulled.

Originally serialized in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, The Creep by John Arcudi (B.P.R.D., A God Somewhere) and Jonathan Case (Green River Killer) offers one of the most heartbreaking portraits worth visiting upon yourself. Far from the first invocation of the Rondo Hatton legacy in comics, this transcends his cameo appearances as Lothar in The Rocketeer. In the back matter, Arcudi and Case actually stress an intention to distance Oxel from Rondo. This isn’t a biography, but in its way, it’s easily the most human depiction of those who suffer from Hatton’s iconic disorder. While the central mystery is compelling enough, their depiction of Oxel, both isolated and interacting with others, makes the book essential and the character unforgettable.

Art by Jonathan Case

Art by Jonathan Case

Because Oxel’s transformation took place after college, he has an even more complicated relationship with his past than Robert Mitchum characters enjoy with their own former lives. Uncomfortable as the P.I.’s interactions with strangers often prove, his encounters with old friends and lovers arrive with an even more palpable sense of tension. Who will address the elephant in the room, and how will that effect the outcome of this meeting? Are social niceties and forced decorum even worse than open revulsion? This added ┬ávariable to behavior and social interaction augments the suspense. This isn’t the slick, suave detective navigating through a sea of femme fatales. It’s not even the drunk or the broken-nosed dick. This is a wounded man who can’t help but give a damn. And he often suffers all the more for it.

Case’s style is far from photo-real, meaning Oxel isn’t depicted nearly as hideous as he might’ve been. In another context, some of these images of the character might simply be viewed as a square-jawed goon, ugly but not necessarily deformed. More Fred Gwynne than Rondo Hatton. Exaggeration is so commonplace in cartooning, it takes a lot to really set a character apart as having a medical condition. Case walks a fine line, but ultimately sells our tragic hero’s unusual appearance, focusing on his pronounced chin or brow when the distinction needs the attention. But Oxel’s also portrayed as a much softer, emotive human being than Sin City‘s Marv. It’s a tremendous achievement. Case also impresses with a secondary style, looser, with a water color aesthetic, for a series of dream sequences.

I can only hope this is just the start of a long and eventful career for Oxel Karnhus and an equally fruitful partnership for Arcudi and Case. If not, I’ve already resigned myself to the notion that The Creep will live on in my imagination, whenever my shadow stretches out across the pavement, a tall, dark giant.

 

Story: 5 / Art: 4 / Overall: 4.5

(Out of 5 Stars)

 

Buy it now on Amazon.


Comments

  1. This is special.

  2. Is this out Already?

    • Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Where all fine comic books are sold!

    • @Paul: I’ve noticed that you staff-folk usually fail to give an Amazon link in some really obvious settings. This is in contrast to the big Amazon pitch you give during the podcasts. Even if someone just clicks the link to check the price, ratings, etc., doesn’t this create a 24 hour window giving you a cut of any Amazon purchases that person makes?

      In any case, providing a link to a recommended product such as this HC, from my perspective, is iFanboy providing a service for the community that is directly related to the benefit you get from Amazon’s advertising fee. As opposed to the system-gaming situation of “Please buy all your Amazon products through iFanboy, so we get the advertising fee, even though we are not actually doing any real advertising.” That same “Marvel Encyclopedia” ad I always see really doesn’t count, in my opinion.

      This critique comes from a good place, I promise. I want you guys to succeed and continue to be ensconced in Ferraris.

      As an aside, I noticed that same set of Bleachers that you jokingly provided a link for once as being advertised on Bleeding Cool’s Amazon banner ad yesterday. What a weird coincidence unless Amazon has some sort of advertising calculus that groups all the comic sites together.

    • Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      I can do that. I can do that presently.

    • Word.

  3. I rarely double-dip, but I may have to make an exception on this. I hope Dark Horse gives Arcudi and Case the opportunity to do more of these. What a great book.

  4. I read in issues, and I loved it

  5. filippod (@filippodee) says:

    I bought the monthlies. Great book.

  6. I loved this book. The twist was crazy, but the dialogue was the best part.

  7. I just read this and this was a fantastic read.

    Always in the mood for a detective story and this had everything. A flawed hero, a real good mystery, and a lot of drama packed in. This might be my favorite thing Arcudi has written actually. The art was really good too and the coloring in this was on point. I love how Oxel’s imagination and flashbacks are colored more brightly to contrast to his drab, gray surroundings.

    Hope there is more of this cause I’d love to read more about this guy. Great review Paul.