Numb is an odd-sized (almost like a comic folded sideways) autobiographical comic by newcomer Josh Kemble. The comic won a Xeric Award for its story of young Seymour, a writer who’s crushed by his writer’s block after breaking up with Leah. However, in the end, Leah gets the last word on Seymour’s life.
These sorts of comics are very difficult to review. On one hand, the comic feels a bit slight, an early attempt at a graphic story. As such, it’s easy to give Kemble the benefit of the doubt. After all, every artist has to start with his or her own explorations. This comic is no worse than early comics by Chris Ware or Dan Clowes. It’s a valiant attempt at a comic, the first steps of a former art student out to make his way in the world of graphic novels. On the other hand, buying a comic like Numb isn’t like buying stock in a company that you think will prosper in the future. It’s a comic book costing $3.95 which, by purchasing it, allows Kemble to “escape the day job, and make art,” as he says in his epilogue. There are a lot of comics out there competing for your $3.95; is this comic worth buying more than others on the stands?
I enjoyed the potential that Josh Kemble shows in this comic. I thought his art, in black, white and blue, was a nice mix of realistic and abstract scenes. Some of his tricks are annoying – the rotating page thing always annoys me, even when someone like Dave Sim did it. The blank panels on page five are a hard trick to pull off; I think only Eddie Campbell and Alex Toth ever pulled off that trick well, and Kemble sure isn’t in the class of those two masters. On the other hand, the image on page six of pages flying out of a book and turning into comics pages is an interesting image. And the image of Seymour’s face as he discovers Leah’s book is well done.
The story is less exciting. It feels padded at its length, and Seymour feels a bit pathetic in his obsessions over his old girlfriend. If he was so quick to turn around on the last page, why was it such a struggle before that?
It’s obviously impossible to know where Josh Kemble’s career will lead, but this is a respectable beginning for it. Is it worth your $3.95? I guess I’d say there are worse ways to spend your money than helping a new creator follow his dream.