“Dying young, a brilliant Mathematician discovers a way to cheat the terrifying Divine Calculator. He schemes to be endlessly reincarnated in the life of the woman he loves, no matter how often the violent bailiffs of the Karmic Accountancy cut short each life.”
Yet the delivery of this quirky story is delivered through the voice of a foul-mouthed British thug in such a way that it… actually works. Numbercruncher asks questions involving the biggest topics of life and death yet balances humor and despair in a pretty stunning and imaginative way.
Bastard Zane is a thug. A dead thug. He speaks in the local accents of the street kids in Attack the Block or Daniel Craig in Layer Cake, and could easily fit into the crime noir world of Road to Perdition. And he’s experiencing the real afterlife, not one of angels and pearly gates, but of accountants running the grand show—it’s like the worst case scenario for those afraid of tax men and accountants: heaven is run by numbercrunchers. Writer Si Spurrier quickly gives us his set up in a way that puts this story alongside the afterlife treatments of Steven Spielberg’s Always, Albert Brooks’s Defending Your Life or even the Philip K. Dick-inspired The Adjustment Bureau–and far better than Jerry Zucker’s Ghost. And then he proceeds to let his characters chase each other down.
In heaven it’s all about the numbers and contract clauses, and the Divine Calculator is fickle, mean-spirited, and full of irony, and the elements of life and death are hardly ever fair. Spurrier includes some sci-fi elements, too, like the “accident gun,” a supernatural gun that bridges time and matter to effect the desired results via happenstance and no evidence of the real cause of the act. And Zane uses it in infinite ways. The plan all works out until one fellow in his death-bed hallucinations imagines the actual composition of the afterlife, the riddle of it all, which gives him a free pass to try to carve his own path.
At the core it’s a veiled love story about a woman we don’t really get to know with a track record like Nancy Travis’s in So I Married an Axe Murderer. It’s a romance cloaked in mobster dress thanks to the stylish work of artist P.J. Holden. Spurrier refers to his graphic novel in the afterword as “a time-twisting romantic thriller crime-noir metaphysical sci-fi black comedy”. It is all that.
Not for everyone but those who like the dark and quirkier fringe of the graphic novel universe, Numbercruncher is certainly compelling reading. Originally offered as a four-issue series, it is available January 15, 2014, in a hardcover edition from Titan Books, available at comic book stores or online at Amazon.com.