Grim_Noir Crunches the Numbers on Numbercruncher #2

Numbercruncher #2 cover

Title: Numbercruncher #2 (of 4)

Writer: Si Spurrier

Artist: P.J. Holden

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

Letterer: Simon Bowland

Title & Original Layout: Simon Parr

Publisher: Titan Comics

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

Quick: Which would you rather have? One more day with the love of your life, or a cushy retirement for the rest of eternity?

Don’t think, just answer. Because how you answer that one question will determine who you think is the hero in Titan Comics’ Numbercruncher.

In the world of Si Spurrier’s Numbercruncher, the universe is ruled by cold-hearted mathematical equations. When you die, you don’t go to Heaven or Hell, you’re simply assigned a job at the Karmic Accountancy Department. You will work for all eternity for The Divine Calculator, who is either God or The Devil (depending on your point-of-view).

Numbercruncher #2 Black & White page

Starting in the 1960s, a young theoretical mathematician named Richard Thyme dies of cancer. He quickly susses out the number-based nature of the afterlife and makes a Faustian deal with The Divine Calculator: In exchange for one more lifetime next to the woman he loves, he will gladly come back and devote himself to the Karmic Accountancy for the rest of Eternity.

Trouble is, making a deal with The Divine Calculator is a lot like making a deal with a Djinn in the 1001 Arabian Nights. Thyme’s deal is not honored the way he expected and, to top it off, The Divine Calculator has sent an angry street-level thug of a cosmic accountant, Bastard Zane, to make sure The Mathematician honors his deal (no matter how rigged it was). Bastard Zane is like Bob Hoskins trapped in Jason Statham’s body. And he’s been promised that Thyme will take his place in the Cosmic Accountancy, allowing Zane to permanently retire once he brings Thyme in. But, Richard Thyme isn’t as trusting as he initially appears and most of issue #2 is about how Thyme buys himself another “one more chance.” A chase through all of bureaucratic infinity has begun!

That’s right, your choice of heroes is either a Dick or a Bastard. And at least one of them is definitely not going to get what he wants.

Imagine A Beautiful Mind, The Long Good Friday, Quantum Leap and Midnight Run ground up and pushed into a sausage casing, grilled up and served with a side of mashed potatoes. Okay, now eat that while watching a Wiley E. Coyote versus Road Runner marathon and you’ll begin to get a vague idea of Numbercruncher.

Numbercruncher (which is being reprinted from a back-up feature in 2000AD) has several barriers to entry for the average American comic book fan: It is told exclusively from Zane’s viewpoint, it is LOADED to the gills with more “Brit-icisms” than a BBC-America miniseries and several pages are exclusively in Black and White (more on that later), making it look more like an indy or a manga. But, it’s biggest flaw is that is never fleshes out the alleged love of Richard Thyme’s life (Hell, issue #2 never even gives her a NAME, even while the latest incarnation of Thyme is having, er, “interactions” with her).

Jordie Bellaire's colorwork on Numbercruncher #2

Don’t get me wrong, this book does have several things going for it. P.J. Holden is a master of capturing human expressions and facial ticks. And Spurrier does wring some positively Python-esque humor out of his ultraviolence. But what really sells this book is the Eisner-worthy work of colorist Jordie Bellaire. Bellaire has taken what was originally a B & W short story and ladled vivid amounts of color where necessary, while retaining the original Black and White work to represent anything that is ethereal on the page. For the first page or two, this gives the impression that the book is half-finished, however, once you tumble to the stylistic choice Bellaire has made, it is really engaging.

Unfortunately, it is just not $4/issue engaging ($16 for the whole story). I would pick this up in a discount bin in a heartbeat. I would even pay $3/per issue ($12 for the whole story). I sincerely want Titan Comics to succeed because I think we need to see more of the U.K.’s unbridled creativity. Sadly, price point is the number that most comic buyers have to crunch every Wednesday and that makes this book (slightly) too little for (slightly) too much money.

Ol' Grim Hisself

* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or Friend on Facebook or Good Reads to end his self-delusions.

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