21st Aug2013

‘Numbercruncher #2′ Review

by Mark Allen

Written by Simon Spurrier | Drawn by PJ Holden | Colours by Jordie Bellaire | Published by Titan Books

Numbercruncher_#2_Cover_web

My crush on Spurrier’s writing continues with the second issue of his and Holden’s afterlife black comedy, which has far less to prove than its first issue and instead just gets on with telling a hell of a good story. Not that they didn’t last time, you understand.

To recap: Bastard Zane, servant of the Divine Calculator and doler-out of cosmic justice, is about to be free of his metaphysical bonds just as soon as the mathematician who figured out the secrets of beyond on his deathbed and got another life to seek out his beloved pops his clogs once more.

You know. Obviously.

Issue #2 picks up where #1 leaves off, with Zane gearing up to kill Thyme (the mathematician, certainly not named by accident) by way of the Accident Gun, a wonderful little device that causes magnetic elevators to suddenly fall from the sides of buildings and motorists to lose control of their vehicles, tragically turning whoever might be so unfortunate as to waltz into their path. This kind of merciless killing might seem in strange taste were it not for the remorseless cynicism of the aptly-named Bastard, who is almost as much a joy to watch enjoying his work (hunting down Thyme in the distinctly dystopian 2030s , which he’s roundly disgusted by) as he is when he doesn’t get his way.

As such, no sooner does Zane get what he wants – a dead mathematician and one-way passage to oblivion – than he’s roundly one-upped by the conniving Thyme, who has not only made a deal with another operative that nullifies Zane but also calculated exactly where and when to be reincarnated to meet his love almost as soon as his last body shoves off the mortal coil.

What follows is a cat-and-mouse chase punctuated by horrific acts of cartoon violence committed by Zane against the colleagues who unwittingly get in his way and the sense that Thyme’s eternal girlfriend is going to need a lot of therapy after seeing lover after lover successively killed in monstrous accidents. This might all seem a bit distasteful were it not for the infectiously crotchety humour of our anti-hero and his helpful predilection for boiling complex ideas down to their base meaning (see: the Accident Gun, made to “collapse atomic superpositions” or, for the layman, “fuck about with chance”), usually punctuated by some good old-fashioned working-class swear words.

In fact, in a comic populated by colonies of strange and wonderful ideas, it’s kind of peculiar that it’s the simplest moments that are the most effective – the scene where Zane squares up to a fellow operative reaches its peak with an entire panel devoted to calling him a tit, and his later decapitation of same takes on an eye-popping, Ren and Stimpy-esque quality that tickled me no end.

It’s a testament to the art, then, that these moments are the highlights of the book – well, that or the fact that I’m a facile boy-man who just gets his kicks from rude words and punching – and indeed, PJ Holden keeps up the high bar set in the first issue, ably assisted by Jordie Bellaire’s colours that really pop when used in contrast to the monochrome world Zane and his operatives usually inhabit.

I only have one nagging issue, and it’s a small one – Thyme’s lover. I’m sure my doubts will be assuaged in the final two issues, but to me it seems kind of creepy that the mathematician’s able to coerce a woman who just witnessed his last form meet a sticky end into bed so easily. Obviously there’s the touch of the familiar, and for the most part Spurrier keeps it from getting overly weird (kind of a strange thing to write about a comic that is all weird) but the last couple of panels made me feel kind of gross about the situation. Well, it has been two issues. I should probably have started to feel gross about something by now anyway.

But like I said, small potatoes, and I’m certain Spurrier, Holden & co. will pull it out of the bag and put all my worries to rest next time. For now I’m just glad I got to hang out with that loveable dickhead Bastard Zane a little bit longer.

Numbercruncher #is on sale now.

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