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posted January 16, 2007


Creator: Joshua Kemble
Publishing Information: Self-Published (distributed through Alternative Comics), comic book, 24 pages, $3.95, February 2007
Ordering Numbers: 1891867849 (ISBN)

You know that look you get on your face when your friend is telling you about someone who said something about them they don't agree with, but you happen to agree with the friend so much that there's no way you're going to get that off of your face so when your friend looks at you, you try to look at them with a generous half-smile that says, "Well..."? I had that look on my face the entire time I read Joshua Kemble's NUMB, a Xeric-winner in 2006 to be distributed in early 2007 by Jeff Mason and Alternative Comics.

The comic book tells the story of young, mopey Seymour, who can't write because his girlfriend left him. That girlfriend was his muse, for whom he goes so far as to imagine abstract wings. The rest of the comic explores some general facts about their relationship according to Seymour, how the girlfriend takes Seymour's new muse from him, and then how Seymour embraces the possibilities that come without depending on a single relationship, past or present, to bring him inspiration. It's so straight-forward and earnest, and completely devoid of specific detail about the relationship, that it seems unearned, unconvincing -- an approximation of relationship trauma rather than the real thing. The final plot spin, whereby the girl in the relationship takes the subject of their relationship away from Seymour by having produced a novel first, just seems odd in that it takes a couple of years to get something written and published; Seymour has thus been moping a really, really long time. In addition, it's incredibly talky -- just saying "show don't tell" in the vicinity of NUMB might cause it to burst into flame -- and while the art shows promise it doesn't always communicate exactly what's going on panel to panel; it's more attractive than it is functional.

All in all, NUMB reminds me of something that the kid in Art School Confidential might have created if he favored comic books over painting. That isn't in any way a compliment but, then again, it's not like I would have wanted to look at any work from the rest of that kid's peers in the movie and I will read the next work by Kemble.