Heads up: The Creep is a bit of a downer. It’s a sullen and occasionally depressing crime mystery about Oxel Karnhus, a private investigator. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great story, just set The Creep aside if you’re having a bad day.
Oxel finds himself sucked into investigating a teen suicide case that the cops brushed aside. It’s a favor for Stephanie, an old flame from his younger days. Since they last saw each other, Oxel developed a case of acromegaly, a condition that causes body tissues to get larger over time. In Oxel’s case, his jaw grew crazy-huge like Rondo Hatton.
The Creep contains the full series which follows Oxel’s investigation into Curtis’ suicide. Apparently his suicide is somehow linked to his buddy, Mike’s suicide a few months earlier. These suicides lead directly to Jeff Brinke, Mike’s grizzly grandfather who took the boys out into the wilderness for some good, old fashioned outdoor activities. He was a role model for the kids and the woods gave them a release from the torturous existence of the image-conscious teenage world. Oxel digs into Jeff’s past and finds out that he has a past with mental issues and was admitted to a hospital at one point.
Writer John Arcudi has crafted an intricate and slow developing mystery and character study. He subtly leads readers into conjuring up false theories about the case. It’s nothing overt, like say, Lost, but I definitely felt lured into making several false assumptions about the case. Oxel methodically pieces bits of information together about the teen suicides that leads directly to a tragic incident on one of their outdoor trips. The mystery wraps up with Oxel facing the prospect of shattering one of the character’s fragile faith in her judgment and parenting skills. Throughout the series, Oxel endures repeated insults and scorn as a result of his disfiguration. A somber mood permeates The Creep. Be prepared for topics like teen suicide, depression, disfigurement, and a gruesome ending that should leave your frontal bone uncomfortably tingling.
Oxel is an intriguingly untypical lead comic character. His personality is flawed and rather ordinary; he doesn’t have any noteworthy strengths or wits. Externally, Oxel just kind of bumbles around and meekly accepts any public derision. In actuality, he uses his deformity to lure people into trusting him and opening up to him “” a prized skill in the private investigation field. The storyline begs the question: is Oxel actually this tricky or is this merely how he rationalizes his dopey demeanor? He’s a seemingly weak personality who sleeps with hookers, drinks a little too much, and takes all sorts of meds. I didn’t particularly like Oxel, but I certainly sympathized with him. He endures a tremendous amount of humiliation as a result of his appearance. I found myself pulling more for him to hook up with one of the female characters than solving the actual case. But I suppose that would make him a true creeper.
Jonathan Case’s artwork is a throwback to the ’80s and early ’90s, which matches the The Creep’s time period. The coloring is flat with almost no use of gradients. I love retro art in comics and, for the most part, Case’s work is well done. His art style dramatically changes depending on the point-of-view: Oxel’s reality is dank and drab, but panels that show his imagination are artsy, whimsical, and colorful. The lack of detail in the line work doesn’t quite do Oxel’s disfigured jaw enough justice, which is a major story element.
The Creep takes its sweet time unveiling its story and fleshing out its characters. John Arcudi neatly wraps up the case in the end, however some minor loose ends with the characters are left open to interpretation in the fallout. The Creep is an intriguing mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. I had all sorts of theories; none of them even came close. And if you claim to guess the underlying cause of the suicides, I won’t believe you.