In Review: Numbercruncher #1
The cover: The title character, #494–Bastard Zane, is walking to us, one hand in his pocket, the other holding a gun as big as his calf. This is obviously not an individual who likes to be played or have anything, or anyone, screw up his day. You have no idea. Nice intro image by interior artist P.J. Holden and colorist Jordie Bellaire. The appropriate bright yellow will make this a stand out against other books. Overall grade: A
The story: This is one heck of a book to summarize for a review, so rather than give one of my own I’m going to lift a passage from writer Si Spurrier’s Author’s Note: “A man, dying young, meddles with divine powers so he can be reincarnated within his lover’s lifetime. Rule-bending occurs. A karmic bailiff is dispatched to destroy the romance. An intricate time-travelling love story ensues, but all told from the point of view of the bastard sent to stop it.” In the opening four pages we learn how Zane got the badge–a dying promise to sell his soul to anyone if he could get one more year with his lady love. As he lies bleeding on the ground, a hand with a contract appears before him. At the end of his year he’s on the “team”, working for Karmic Accountancy. He hates his job (Who wouldn’t in eternity?) until Richard Thyme dying, has an idea as to how the universe truly works and from there our tale really begins. I can’t possibly describe what happens next for fear of what the Devine Calculator would do to me because I don’t think he’d make a deal with someone like me. Spurrier has created the most off-the-wall mondo-bizarro head trip of a story that is the most seducing concept I’ve encountered from the UK since Alan Moore wrought The Ballad of Halo Jones. I couldn’t begin to fathom what’s to come of the machine or the universe, but I bet it’s going to get messy. Overall grade: A+
The art: As if the story weren’t twisted enough, P.J. Holden’s art will have you on pins and needles as to what you’ll next encounter. The first page shows the world with its many aspects of life. It’s definitely a “Thus Spake Zarathustra” musical moment, until Zane’s dialogue kicks into your psyche and you leave the real world for the hidden one on Page 2. His existence resides in a location that would make an accountant or bureaucrat weep in torment. I was completely sucked into his overwhelming visual reality of computers, drawers, files, calculators, machines, steps, file cabinets, etc. It’s an amazing setting. Reality looks good, too, without a doubt, but once you’ve seen behind the curtain the taste of world seems different. My favorite bit in the book has to be Bastard’s smoke trail of numbers. This leads me to wonder if numbers will give you cancer…? No wonder I was an English major. P.J. Holden is the perfect artist for this perfect story. Overall grade: A+
The colors: Life on Earth is in color, as dynamic or dreary you’d expect it to be. The “real” world is in black and white, one or the other, like binary code. When these two worlds mix it’s stunning. You wouldn’t think it would be, but it is. The first example of this we see is in the final panel on Page 3 as Zane dies. We see it again after his year is up. It’s just amazing. I loved that only contracts have colors in the Karmic Accountancy, since they deal with aspects on Earth. I’m enjoying what Jordie Bellaire’s doing and I hope we get some daytime scenes to see this colorist stretch. Overall grade: A
The lettering: Two sound effects, some dialogue and tons of Bastard narration (two words I never thought I’d combine in a review) from Simon Bowland, who does a bang up job. I have the feeling that when the action increases so will his sound effects. Overall grade: A
The final line: One of the most original narratives I’ve read set in one of the most strange, freakish, twisted version of reality you’ll read. Once you’ve finished you’ll be thinking about how the universe works, and it ain’t the Matrix–it’s even colder and cooler! Overall grade: A+
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyers Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years, and only recently has been teaching 9th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.