Dark Horse Comics 2016
Written by Van Jensen
Illustrated by Pete Woods
Lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot
Hidden away in northern China is the Preserve, a walled-off compound where the Nine Families have secreted away the worlds deadliest cryptozoological creatures. Grahame and Jason venture inside to search for a clue to the origin of the Mothmen, but learning the truth is only the first step. Then, theyll have to escape alive. Elsewhere, Bela shines a bright light on the Cryptocracy, sparking her followers to war.
I’m really enjoying this series Van is creating a new world order here based on one where the Nine families ruled. With the normal infighting aside it seems that the Nine families are as responsible for the prophecies coming true as Hum himself. While at times it seems that their previous actions come from an altruistic place such as creating the Preserve in China, a place where the Cryptids can live unfettered from human interaction. The Preserve while a good idea and while there may not be any actual cages is a cage in itself and as such causes dissention among those living there. So when the prophecy of “creatures of the night will stalk into the day and overrun the world of man” comes to be it’s because they saved these beings and put them in something of a zoo.
Pete gets a chance to shine here as well by bringing these Cryptids to life. The Chinese Dragon, the Bugbears, the Death Worms anything and everything that lives in the Preserve is brought to life so nicely. They have this classic look and feel from the legends we know of today and that they can be so immediately recognisable is great to see. I am enjoying the use of page layouts through angles, perspective and what backgrounds we see to control the flow of the story. The attention to detail is nice to see and the characters have these great individual looks to them.
As Bela learns more about her father, his work and her own legacy and that Hum has introduced himself to her she begins to think that something isn’t quite right. Yes she wants to expose the Nine and find justice for her father but things seem to be taking a turn she isn’t quite comfortable with. Perhaps she and Grahame will have more in common in the coming issues than anyone previously thought? I like the possibilities here with everything we see developing this issue.
Speaking of developing I love the characterisation here. We see friendships, relationships and that desire to rule at any lengths coming into play. How Grahame is being groomed by his Elder and how Temple’s own attitude has been this way since childhood. Children of privilege yeah they have those entitled attitudes that need putting in place from time to time and Temple she’s got plans which if she gets her way well you’ll have to read this issue to find out what those are and their ramifications.
What I originally thought this was going to be about isn’t what Van has decided to keep going with. Nicely done on his part to keep the story changing and evolving in ways that ensure not only my continuing return but to keep me guessing as to what’s really going on here and what will happen next. An exciting look at the shadowy world of power players and not so imaginary creatures that help shape humanity’s destiny.