ADVANCE REVIEW: “Numbercruncher #1”

Numercruncher #1 (w) Si Spurrier, (a) PJ Holden, (c) Jordie Bellaire, (l) Simon Bowland Titan Comics
“Numbercruncher #1”
(w) Si Spurrier, (a) PJ Holden, (c) Jordie Bellaire, (l) Simon Bowland
Titan Comics

I like to think that when a writer or creative team proposes tackling the bigger questions about life, the universe, and everything (thank you always Douglas Adams), those involved take chances with the material. Why? Well, and this is just my humble opinion, to take on the infinite/unknown you need to think…well outside of the box, and that comes with a lot of possible questions to pose that will need answering. Questions in that outer box area can include what does God look like, are we alone in the universe (in comics the answer is always NO), what is the afterlife exactly, what kind of place is heaven or hell, is it a Divine Comedy kind of place or is it a more existential prison—or both?! Examining life and death is about options, and those options in a creative sense can be infinite, so a story that hinges on such an exploration can teeter on the edge of being good or really missing the mark. Numbercruncher #1 moves confidently into the positive category and gives the reader a lot to digest.  

Out of the box thinking and addressing some of the questions I alluded to earlier is what drives “Numbercruncher #1,” and it is accomplished in a number of ways that only the medium of comics can satisfy for a story in need of such large scale imagination. The art of PJ Holden and colors by the always superb Jordie Bellaire establish a sensible visual thematic–the difference between tangible existence and the space in-between. For Numbecruncher, this visual theme is life is in color, non-existence is in black and white. The visual metaphors of this are more than a handful deep (and I will leave it up to you humble reader to debate with friends about the metaphorical avenues), and the beauty of such a seemingly simple choice conveys so much about the complex nature of existing. The ultimate feather in the cap here, however, with the art  is the black and white renderings surpass the color segments, and that is not taking anything away from Jordie Bellaire, the color is well done. When Holden creates the infinite spaces, and the entities (and cat, there is a cat which is my favorite thing) that inhabit that space, there is a crisper detail to things, a completely separate experience from the color parts of the story. And the detailed designs of that space…well, just take a look at the example below.

Imaginative, crisp, detailed work of an imaginative space (with cat!)
Imaginative, crisp, detailed work of an imaginative space (with cat!)

Providing firm foundation is writer Si Spurrier, whose Six-Gun Gorilla has been sitting on my shelf, but I have no qualms about missing out on it (and I will get around to it soon), as this serves as such an overwhelming, welcome introduction to his writing. Spurrier’s story is one of the struggle between chaos and balance, and he himself provides a nice short written essay about the genesis of his idea for this story in the back of the issue so I will let him do all the talking in that regard (and of course I avoid spoilers as much as possible). Spurrier voices his inter-spatial bruiser, Bastard Zane, (oh, yeah, this book is a solid high T + or Mature, so, fair warning, all for language), with a regional dialect in the dialogue and voice over, something that as a reader I enjoy as it allows one to settle in to a place and a person much easier than if the character is stripped for some overly standard American English. Zane is crafted as someone whom a reader can love to hate, the muscle with a quick wit and more brains than he lets on. When a writer hits all the right character cylinders in comics, it doesn’t take long to jump on, and in the case of Zane, all cylinders are hitting early.

Numbercruncher, at least with this introductory issue, is about to rocket to the top of American comic buyers reading lists and probably a few critics early best of contenders. While the story was originally published in the popular U.K. Judge Dredd: Magazine, outside of the U.K. it is going to get some much deserved wider exposure. This has been a good year for comics, and with the arrival of this story, it is a nice cap at the half way point and indicates there are still some seriously imaginative, fun comics yet to come before we put a bow on 2013.