Crocodile Black Featured Reviews 

“Crocodile Black” #1

By | May 9th, 2024
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

Desperate times call for desperate measures, which is what young Danny takes to heart when a routine grocery delivery opens him up to a wider mystery that will change him irrevocably.

Cover by Andrea Sorrentino

Written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson
Illustrated by Som
Colored by Patricio Delpeche
Lettered by Becca Carey

What makes someone turn to crime-especially in a modern, pandemic-riddled dystopia?

Danny, a seemingly mundane young man lost in escapism, with a spiraling lack of control over his life, witnesses something during a delivery job that will change him forever, turning things as dark as the black, crocodile skin boots that he can’t take his eyes off of…

In this criminal thriller from Eisner-nominated writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson (Action Comics) and rising star artist Somnath Pal (Brigands), the morally gray turns to cold-blooded murder.

It’s very interesting how the marketing that BOOM! Studios put out for this book leans heavily into the premise that this is a COVID-19 book, whereas the solicit makes no reference to the coronavirus pandemic at all.  And admittedly it was that COVID-19 angle that attracted me to this story in the first place.  Being almost five years removed from those early days of this unknown disease does provide a certain distance where the lens of fiction can provide compelling fiction, and not a “truth that is stranger than fiction” vibe that taints the story being told.

But outside of a date reference to May 2021 and some passing comments about mask wearing, there is not much to make this story different from any other post-apocalyptic pandemic story.   Or even a story that doesn’t need a pandemic as its anchor.  This tale of a disaffected youth, lacking in ambition and a healthy dose of moral fabric, working a delivery job that provides means of survival and nothing more, who finds himself on a delivery that changes his life towards something off of the straight and narrow path is a trope that fits in easily with any time or place.

Perhaps how COVID-19 plays into this story will end up revealed in future issues. And as the original announcement indicated, the idea that many people re-evaluated their lives in the darkest hours of the coronavirus provided inspiration for this story.  But with the amount of marketing from the publisher on that angle, I can’t help but feel something is missing, and that this is a story that could stand on its own merits and does not need recent (and still traumatic to some) events to be told effectively.

And Phillip Kennedy Johnson does set up his mystery well!  He builds enough of Danny’s character through his interactions with his clueless family to provide that window into his brain: a young man trying to make sense of a world that isn’t making sense at all, a fragile mind just waiting to snap.  It amplifies the fear and confusion you feel that Danny feels on happening upon the very dead Leo Black.  He starts to call 911 to get the man some assistance, but there is something that pushes him to hang up on the dispatcher.  What can’t he take his eyes off of?  What is affecting him so deeply that he just can’t let go of what he saw?  How deep is he going to go into the world of Leo Black’s demise, and what will he be like when he comes out of it on the other side?  I’m keen to see how Johnson explores all these questions – – questions and concepts that again, don’t need a pandemic to be explored.

With so much darkness enveloping the script, you would expect artwork from SOM and Patricio Delpeche to lean into noir tones. And you see some of that influence in close ups of Danny’s face, where thick lines bring out his emotions.  But it’s in fact the opposite – smooth and flat, with colors that are almost cheery in nature.  What a clever metaphor for our desire to bottle our true moments!  It’s so deceptive in its nature that when those dark moments come in, be it the personification of Danny’s inner mental torment, or the discovery of the very dead Leo Black, they hop off the page in jarring contrast. Here is where you also see some of the bolder colors from Delpeche: blues and violets in Leo Black’s apartment, or a bright red and black childlike shape designed to represent Danny’s tattered and tangled mental health.

What fascinates me most is the use of reptilian imagery in this book.  It cannot be a coincidence that Leo Black wears black crocodile skin boots.   And it cannot be coincidence that the final panel of this book is that of a snake.  These are both reptiles that shed their skin, like all reptiles do.  The crocodile sheds its skin in individual scales, whereas the snake sheds all of its skin off at once.   What does this say about the transformation of Leo Black, and the eventual transformation of Danny?  What true skin did – – or will – – these two men feel their most comfortable in, and what will be the journey to get to that place?  However that happens, as cliche as it is to say this, there will be numerous lives changed.

Final Verdict: 6.8 – A compelling mystery rich in imagery perhaps does not need its initial premise as much as it thought, so let us hope the creative team focuses on the universal story themes underpinning this issue and less on the current events that seem to have inspired it.

Kate Kosturski

Kate Kosturski is your Multiversity social media manager, a librarian by day and a comics geek...well, by day too (and by night). Kate's writing has also been featured at PanelxPanel, Women Write About Comics, and Geeks OUT. She spends her free time spending too much money on Funko POP figures and LEGO, playing with yarn, and rooting for the hapless New York Mets. Follow her on Twitter at @librarian_kate.