Writer/Artist/Cover artist: Joshua Kemble
Letters: Joshua Patterson
Publisher: Kemble/Alternative Comics
Price: $3.95 US
Any writer who’s sat staring at a blank piece of paper or a blank screen, unable to come up with a spark of an idea or a beginning to fan a spark into a creative flame will recognize himself or herself in this short comic’s lead character. On the surface, this story seems to be about the challenges of writing and creativity and how life provides both obstacles and incentives for that work. But really, this is about the challenges of self, of how one can one’s own worst enemy, and not just when it comes to writing. I found it surprisingly easy to connect with this self-pitying protagonist, and Kemble’s artwork matches the reflective, self-indulgent mood of the script quite well. Numb is actually the result of another Xeric grant and another example of how those doling out those grants have a sharp eye for up-and-coming, indy talent. Kemble’s work has a solid promotional effort behind, with a bit of buzz already generated online. As such, this is hardly a new discovery, but I still felt the excitement of being exposed to a new creative voice in the medium.
A young writer mopes at home, unable to craft any new stories or ideas. He feels he’s been crippled by the recent breakup with his girlfriend. The relationship dissolved quickly but not amicably, and he feels as though he’s lost his muse. It’s all he’s able to think about, until he realizes that he can write about his frustrations, his grief and his lost love. She remains his muse after all, but after months of writing, the re-energized young scribe is about to have the creative rug pulled out from underneath him.
Kemble’s art strikes me as something of a cross among the styles of such artists as Daniel (Ghost World) Clowes, J.H. (Promethea) Williams III and Eric (Flood) Drooker. Kemble employs something of a negative style with blues and blacks to achieve a more realistic look. There’s an everyman quality to the main character that makes it easy to relate to him. easily the most interesting aspect of the art is Kemble’s choice to rotate certain pages to change the flow of the storytelling, and therefore the tone. Those sideways (top-to-bottom) pages boast a more surreal, dreamy feel as a result.
The two-page conclusion stands out as the only really weak part of this creative endeavor. Kemble seems intent on giving his “hero” a happy ending by way of a sudden boatload of realistic perspective on life and his chances to create something new in the wake of an unfortunate coincidence and disappointment. The writer finds himself suddenly centered and satisfied by the story’s final page, but there’s no hint as to what opened his eyes and dispelled the self-imposed clouds hanging over his head.
The whole writer’s block element in the plot really allowed me to connect with this character and story. Long days at work (writing) sometimes make it difficult to sit down and put something together for this website. I also face the prospect of writing a non-fiction book, and while I’ve assembled some notes, the prospect of sitting down and actually writing something in such a long form — longer than I’ve ever even considered before — is daunting. It was easy to relate to the main character on that level, and it would be easy for anyone, writer or otherwise. We all have those days when we can’t muster the energy to accomplish what we need to do, what we want to do.
The strongest moment in the script comes early on in the main character’s remembrance of his lost relationship with Leah. As he reflects on the strength of her poetry, I was distinctly struck by a hint of jealousy, and it cast that connection with his “muse” in a completely different light. By the end of the story, that feeling proves to be on target. Was he with Leah because he loved her, or because being with her made him feel like more than he was? Was she his muse or his mentor? Ultimately, the protagonist proves to fulfill the role of antagonist in this story as well. He is understandably dumbstruck by what he finds at the bookstore after months of writing, but his anger demonstrates he really hasn’t learned anything about himself or the craft. That flawed portrayal takes courage to share, and it’s not quite so unfortunate that one cannot identify with the misplaced negativity. 8/10
Note: This one-shot comic book is slated for release in Feb. 28.