Do not be deceived by the cover of The Creep #0, for what you shall see is a stunning piece of Frank Miller artwork that belongs in his Sin City era. However, when you crack open the book the art is nothing like that. Do not walk away from The Creep because of this deception, for you will miss a very cool and rather oddball detective story. Writer John Arcudi (The Mask, B.P.R.D., Major Bummer) takes the idea of the hardboiled detective and adds a serious dose of humanity and melodrama.
The Creep is private detective Oxel Karnhus, a lonely man stricken with a disease called acromegaly, a growth hormone that mutates, giving Karnhus a head that looks like a cross between a potato, Maniac Cop and a monkey. Living with this disease has left Karnhus with an isolated life, one where he is routinely tormented. Besides the physical scars, our hero carries emotional scars, ones that are about to tear back open.
A girl, it’s always about a girl, one who broke Karnhus’s heart in high school for another man, resurfaces twenty years later. Her son has just committed suicide and he did it mere weeks after his best friend. She’s convinced something is out of the ordinary and begs Karnhus to help her. Being a good soul, Karnhus does but avoids seeing his old flame face to face. As he begins to poke and prod, awful truths begin to emerge involving secrets, lies and mental instability.
The genius in The Creep is the subtext. On the surface, this is a mystery story, but Arcudi takes it much deeper. The return of Karnhus’s ex, saying how she was wrong all those years ago, should be a celebration for the detective. He can go to her now and try to win her over again. Nope, he has this disease and it’s rendered him terrified to even see her. There are also the emotional issues of having been so solitary, of having lived with so much loss, can Karnhus even create a normal life?
Arcudi allows the ebb and flow of emotion to center on Karnhus, which gives us ample time to care about him. We regret his discovery of the mentally ill father not only because it may give credence to the “just a routine suicide” idea, but also because he can’t be the hero for his lost love. Instead, he may be the guy who brings her heartbreak. Karnhus is ill equipped to deal with this and our heart goes out to him as we watch the detective try.
Helping make The Creep #0 such a powerful story is Jonathan Case’s art. He also allows Karnhus to be the center of his work. During the normal aspects of the story, the work is bold lines and limited detail. The “real world” is cut and dry, very clean and stark. When Karnhus has a flashback or thinks of his lost love, the pencils become more like gentle sketches colored simply in order to elevate the emotion of the scene. Case allows Karnhus to see the past through rose-colored memories and see the present as cold and devoid of color. The combination of these artistic elements help make The Creep something truly unusual.
(5 Story, 4 Art)