Folktales Of The Cryptids is a new comic from independent British comic publisher Afterlight Comics. Afterlight was founded by Folktales creator/writer Joseph Oliveira. Folktales Of The Cryptids was successfully funded through a Kickstarter campaign, which ended this past March. Afterlight’s next Kickstarter campaign is for the 3rd issue of Oliveira’s “Ghost Island” comic series, which is described as “Jurassic Park, but with ghosts”. That campaign went live just a few days ago on April 17th, 2018.
The first thing that you’ll probably notice about the comic is the sparse, yet effectively eerie cover art, courtesy of artist Shindy Reehal. While it has been said innumerable times that you should never judge a book (or comic book) by it’s cover, I have no shame admitting that the only reason that I even clicked on the link to the Kickstarter campaign was because of my immediate attraction to the cover image. The subject matter is what you might refer to as “icing on the cake”.
The inside cover features only a very brief introduction, as well as cover artist credits, over a solid black page before diving headfirst into the first of the issue’s 4 tales, “Sunshine“. A new mother puts her infant son to bed in his crib, a baby monitor on the nearby nightstand. Her husband is traveling home from work. She calls him to say her “good night” and to wish him a safe trip home.
As she lies down in her own bed, she is alerted to the sound of her son crying in his crib. As any loving mother would, she rushes to the nursery to calm her baby back to sleep. However, upon entering the room, she is shocked and revolted to find her defenseless child being attacked by a creature that sure looks a Hell of a lot like one of Speilberg and Dante’s Gremlins.
The monster snatches the infant from the crib and retreats out an open window, only for both to never be seen again. The nightmare, however, does not end there for the poor woman. Her story takes even more of a bleak turn, ending the tale without the slightest glimpse of hope. “Sunshine“, like all the issue’s 4 tales, is quite short. It’s an intriguing tale and starts the issue off on a high note, even if it is just a variation on a “campfire tale” that you may have heard before.
“Sunshine” features respectable art and solid pacing. Unfortunately, (at least in my copy), the front and back side of the page featuring the tale’s pivotal moment are printed out of order, which naturally made the events a little confusing at first. While it is a shame that this mishap flaws an otherwise well-crafted product, I’m willing to overlook it.
The second tale, “Papa“, features a Sasquatch-like creature seeking vengeance for man’s violent encroachment on nature. Most of the tale features no dialog or narrative, which really helps set the stage for the tale’s brutal ending, as well as helps hide how thin the story really is. The art from Francesco Iaquinta and colorist Vukasin Ivkovic is a bleak, gritty mixture of greens, browns, and black, and truly fits the setting as well as the dark tone.
In “Remember Me“, the issue’s third tale of terror, an elderly farmer lovingly and dutifully attends to the every need of his Alzheimer’s stricken wife. After putting the woman to bed one night, he is alerted to his cows loudly mooing from the nearby field. He grabs his shotgun and goes out to inspect. The old man soon finds that one of the herd has been mauled by some unseen creature. He readies his weapon, preparing to put down the wounded animal, when the unseen beast returns, taking a nice bite into his hand. All that is revealed of the creature’s presence is a pair of glowing red eyes.
Despite having easily the most developed character in the collection, as well as the strongest of the opening sequences, “Remember Me” ends rather abruptly, and with no real sense of conclusion. As this story offered the most initial “promise”, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by the lack of depth this time.
The issue’s final folktale is entitled “Romance Is Dead“. What starts out as a case of potential sexual assault quickly turns into the ages-old legend of “an unseen entity terrifying the occupants of a car parked on Lover’s Lane” that you have most assuredly heard in some form or another. While the “date rape” angle offers up a new, modernized twist on the tale, it never gets the chance to develop into much and ultimately doesn’t factor into the story’s conclusion. Unfortunately, I consider “Romance” to be the weakest entry of the 4, which does end the issue on a bit of a down note, but isn’t enough to ruin the overall finished product.
While intriguing, none of the 4 stories contained within the pages of Folktales Of The Cryptids is deep or fleshed-out enough to justify praising the writing. The stories are long enough to convey one specific encounter, but don’t offer much insight into the thought patterns of the human characters, or history, or behavioral habits of the creatures. In fact, the cryptids featured in each tale are not actually identified in their respective “chapters”, but are displayed in a “gallery” included at the end of the book. This gallery offers up each of the 4 creature’s names, as well as a very brief list of characteristics.
Folktales is undeniably a case of “style over substance”. The art is quite effective, giving life to creatures and humans included in each tale, without ever distracting from the narratives. That said, I do believe that as this is only the 1st issue of this title, that there is definite room for improvement. Maybe dropping from 4 tales an issue to 3 would provide enough of an opportunity to expand upon the history of each of these enigmatic monsters, but also provide some much needed “depth” to not only the proceedings, but also the characters involved.
I’ll still give Folktales Of The Cryptids a passing score, if only because of how intriguing the subject matter is. The finished product is quite attractive, if somewhat shallow, but was well worth the minor investment (around $15 for a signed issue and 11×17 poster of the cover image). Here’s hoping for bigger and brighter in the next issue.
Learn more about FOLKTALES OF THE CRYPTIDS at: https://www.afterlightcomics.com
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