Way back in college Oxel Karnhus dated Stephanie Brinke. It ended badly, and twenty years later he receives a letter from her with the shocking news that her son committed suicide. Karnhus is now a private investigator, which Stephanie knows. What she doesn’t know is that since she last saw him he’s contracted acromegaly, a rare condition that increases bone size, leading to enlarged and pronounced facial features. She can’t understand why her son committed suicide not long after being upset that a good friend of his did the same, but is convinced there’s more to be discovered than meets the eye, and the police can’t be bothered investigating.

In between John Arcudi and Jonathan Case showing us what life is like for a man with acromegaly and the toll it takes on him, they show why he’s a good investigator. The people he’s led to talk with are very different, and he adjusts his approaches with them, which is where Case really comes into his own. Looking at the well crafted layouts shows him to be a good artist, as do the slips into different styles to signify the past, or hallucinations, and his good use of winter conditions to create atmosphere, but what raises him above that level is the way he defines personality. Karnhus is a masterful study in self-pity and repressed rage, and other people important to the story are equally well defined, an element of pathos in each of them.

There are plenty of clever aspects to the plot, but all too many fall into spoiler territory, and The Creep is best read without many preconceptions or advance knowledge. It rolls out very naturally, and Arcudi skilfully leads us to join some dots and believe certain things have occurred that might explain the suicide. They’re dark and nasty things. Did they happen? Well, the revelations of the final chapter are dark and nasty.

It’s been pleasing to see how entrenched crime has become as a graphic novel standby, and The Creep is another fine genre entry.