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posted April 16, 2008
Fantagraphics, hardcover, 104 pages, April 2008, $28.95
Comics don't come much cooler than the heavily stylish, moody stories-with-a-twist created by Thomas Ott. His scratchboard comics tend to be a revelation to those who see them, a perfect marriage of form and content and as they're almost entirely "silent," or visuals-only, accessible to readers around the globe. They're comics that college students buried in Jim Thompson and even The Beats would probably conceptualize out of whole cloth were you to capture them in tipsy mid-ramble at 2 AM. They're greatly pleasurable, and Fantagraphics presentation of this latest work to the North American market adds to the sensuality of the experience.
Ott's comics are also slight, getting a short story's worth of drama out of what in this country is a graphic novel's worth of pages and panels. Part of this is due to his artistic approach and part of it is that he tends to favor those pulpy twists and turns. The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8
holds up better in that light than some of Ott's other work that's been published here in that the eerie element represented by those number is revealed in steps rather than exists as the hinge of the plot point that sends work scrambling in another direction. That can feel intrusive and unfair; the "mystery" here feels clever and entertaining, the kind you root for even after you've figured it out.