Review: Numbercruncher #1 / Author: Si Spurrier / Artist: P.J. Holden / Publisher: Titan / Release Date: Out Now
When the ruminations of Alexander Pope and Albert Einstein serve as preface to issue one of a self-styled ‘time-twisting romantic thriller-noir metaphysical black comedy’ comic book, your lofty expectations can be forgiven. Meet Numbercruncher.
Originally appearing in a serialised form in 2000AD’s Judge Dredd Magazine, way back in January 2011, it is now being reissued by Titan as a four issue miniseries. Though, ask writer Si Spurrier and he’ll tell you that the story, in its new incarnation, represents an “expanded, coloured, retooled, resexed, (and) reawesomed” future for this literally insane creation.
Numbercruncher follows the story of a brilliant mathematician, out to cheat the forces of the afterlife. Not known for taking such things likely, the Karmic Accountancy sends bailiff Bastard Zane in a pursuit across the universe, time, and the ‘in-between’, to put things right and potentially win his own redemption.
Writer Si Spurrier has a voice every bit as intricate and commanding as a Morrison or a Moore, and yet his prose proves to be endlessly more accessible. The artwork, handled by The 86ers’ artist P.J. Holden, brings a decidedly '80s crime thriller vibe to the story, and is absolutely astounding in both its detail and expressiveness.
Teamed with Holden is the equally impressive colourist Jordie Bellaire, who, in a somewhat cynical editorial decision, has been limited in her work. The scenes in the book that take place upon an existential plane (of which there are many) are presented in a series of muted greys and blues, and in an almost scratchy black and white. And although they are used to further reference the phlegmatic, calculated world of the Karmic Accountancy, it truly is a shame when you have one of the industry’s more talented colourists on your book.
This comic will not be for everyone – that much is true. The first issue is loaded with colourful concepts and existential elements, which sometimes suffer from the often weighty exposition. The most successful comics are those which relish in their own three act structures primarily, whilst also contributing and furthering the plot of the wider story arc – and in that vein, the first issue of Numbercruncher asks a lot from its readers. It seems to serve as an almost prologue to the main narrative, with very little in terms of pay-off.
Although, from the foundations present in this first issue, one gets the impression that if you put the hard work in now, you will be rewarded with the time-twisting-heart-warming-metaphysical-adventure story that it promises, and certainly has the potential, to be.