Review: Numbercruncher 1

By Andy Kunka

Numbercruncher #1 coverDerek and I recently reviewed Six-Gun Gorilla 1, the first issue of a new miniseries by Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely and published by Boom! Studios.  We both enjoyed the complex world-building that Spurrier does in that issue, presenting a future Earth in which physics is relative to particular regions and suicides serve both as cannon fodder for an ongoing war and as vicarious thrills for a bored mass public. There is a lot going on in Six-Gun Gorilla, but that first issue presents its complex world in an intriguing and engaging way. (And, I would add, the comic improved with its second issue and a further introduction to the titular Gorilla.)

With my enjoyment of Six-Gun Gorilla in mind, I was looking forward to Spurrier’s other new series, Numbercruncher from Titan Comics (previously published in Judge Dredd Megazine). In Numbercruncher, as in Six-Gun Gorilla, Spurrier again does significant world building in this first issue, and the world he builds is complicated, though not in a difficult or impenetrable way. For this series, Spurrier establishes new rules for how the afterlife works, and these rules are conveyed through the narration of Bastard Zane, a giant bruiser in a pin-striped hat who works as a kind of bailiff for “Karmic Accountancy,” and its head, “The Divine Calculator.” According to Zane, the universe, and the afterlife in particular, is not what we have been told; instead, it is controlled by numbers. The universe, it turns out, functions with a goal of increased complexity. “Free will,” therefore, operates to increase that complexity: the more choices each individual has, the more complex the universe becomes. “Sin,” by extension, becomes anything that reduces or inhibits complexity. Killing a person, for example, eliminates the choices that person may have made.

As the comic begins, Zane is faced with the opportunity to train his own replacement, which will allow him to retire and enjoy the afterlife. The Divine Calculator has found a replacement in Richard Thyme, a mathematician who, on his deathbed, has figured out how the universe works and strikes a deal to be reincarnated with full memory of his past life so that he can reunite with  his love, Jessica. The issue then follows the monkey’s paw bargain that the Calculator makes with Thyme.

I enjoy this idea of metaphysics as mathamatics, and Spurrier exploits this idea extensively just in this first issue. Spurrier has to get through an enormous amount of exposition in this first issue so that readers can understand how this metaphysical system works, but the comic never seems dragged down by the weight of this information. Part of the success here is due to appealing nature of the system and the enjoyment of seeing how its logic plays out. Another contribution is the narrative voice of Bastard Zane: he’s a thug, and hardly what one would expect to articulate such a complex metaphysical/mathematical system. He hates his job, and his amoral worldview makes him an interesting an unlikely candidate for the type of job he has. And finally, PJ Holden’s art conveys the series’s quirky sensibility well in a style reminiscent of Kevin O’Neill.

Numbercruncher 1 is a fun, engaging, and provocative first issue, and as with Six-Gun Gorilla, I’m looking forward to what the rest of the series holds.

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