In the author’s note at the back of Numbercruncher #1, writer Si Spurrier mentions his “morbid fear of pigeonholes.” That fear is evident throughout this first issue, which defies classification at every turn and contains enough big, crazy ideas that even Grant Morrison would be a touch jealous.
A four issue series collecting a tale first published in Judge Dredd: Megazine, Numbercruncher is narrated by Bastard Zane, a man who with his dying breath pleads for one more year of life. Once that year is up he’s forced to work for the afterlife as a karmic accountant, helping ensure the smooth running of the grand mathematical equation known as life. However, things become complicated when dying mathematician Richard Thyme cuts a deal to be resurrected with all his memories intact, so that he can be reunited with the love of his life.
That synopsis only scratches the surface. It’s as conceptually dense a comic as you’re likely to pick up all year, a heady mix of sci-fi, noir, and romance wrapped up in the biggest question of all: why are we here? What’s more, Zane is a terrific creation, a character whose huge size and Cockney dialect betray a humble intelligence and sharp wit. This sense of humor is particularly important, adding levity to what might otherwise have been a dry, exposition-heavy exercise in world building.
The afterlife scenes are presented in black-and-white, with P.J. Holden’s art depicting an incredibly detailed but spiritually empty setting. Jordie Bellaire adds color to the scenes set on earth, and the symbolism of this is impossible to miss: the world we live in is far more precious than anything that comes after, and it’s no surprise that people are so unwilling to let it go.
It’s a good first issue, albeit one that poses its own big question: will the story that unfolds be as interesting as the world Spurrier, Holden, and Bellaire have crafted? The creators also face the challenge of working all their ideas into a cohesive and satisfying whole, no small task given the breadth of their vision. Nevertheless, this is a strong start.