Posted: Tuesday, July 27, 2004
By: Steve Saville

Cover of Numbers Writer(s): John Ira Thomas
Artist(s): Jeremy Smith
Publishers: Candle Light Press (Self Published)
From: USA
Price: $14.95 (US)

The back cover of this graphic novel carries the following quote from Steven Grant "as deserving of the name ‘graphic novel’ as anything I’ve read short of ‘From Hell’".
Now that’s pretty lofty praise but I would have to say that I tend to agree with it.
This is a very complex, often confusing, tale. Be warned though it is not an easy read, in fact even though I have read it three times I still feel that I have missed something.

Take the very first page for example. It takes quite a bit of working through until you realise that the graphics are actually upside down, that the conversation is actually one person talking on the phone and that at the end there is the intrusion of a radio programme from the car radio. Once you have got all of that straight you can move onto page two, two characters talking at the radio station and page three an internal dialogue that takes place in the mind of a very unique character oh and the car that featured at the end of page one continues to drive across the bottom of pages two and three. The link is provided by the radio programme. See what I mean, no easy read.

The story is fascinating, combining the story of a psychopath vigilante who is purging Freedom City of its criminal underworld [and seemingly enjoying himself in the process] and the fact that his escapades have fuelled a numbers game that has everyone scrambling to figure the odds. The cleverly constructed plot provides some delightful twists as the 'bookie' becomes the victim of his own system and is forced to seek unlikely allies.

The real complexity however comes from the need to get to know at least seven important characters and understand their motivation. These characters are all complex individuals who have some serious issues. A costumed hero character who isn’t always that heroic, a frustrated cop, another cop with a past that haunts him. Another character has domestic issues and we won’t even begin to dig any deeper into the mind of the marauding psychopath or the twisted Eddie Foote, I’ll leave that journey for those of you lucky enough to read this graphic novel.

Thomas has gone to great pains to give all of his important characters full and detailed personalities and backgrounds and the story is richer as a result. They are all fighting their own wars [internal and external] and struggling to stay afloat in a world that seems determined to drown them.

As you read through and plunge further and further into the world that unfurls before you it pays to keep the title 'Numbers' in your mind and try remember that the can shape that features on the first page is an important and recurring symbol.

For me though the most exciting aspect of “Numbers” is the design of each and every page. Smith constructs a page as a complete entity rather than as a series of frames and as a result they are often beautiful to look at. The speech bubbles rather than the frames lead the reader through each page. In fact the framing is often almost irrelevant as the overall impression of each page conveys the primary message. The mixing and merging of different angles and the powerful use of close ups create a visually exciting experience. It also provides a distorted point of view that is in perfect harmony with the storyline.

Yes you need to read it more than once but it is worth it. 'Numbers' should reach and entertain a wide audience, my fear is it won’t and that is a tragedy because this is a damn good read.

In a Word: Complex.

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