Sunday, October 19, 2014

Comic Bookshelf: Queen Crab (2012)

Part horror, part romance and part sci-fi, Queen Crab by Palmiotti and 
artist Artiz Eiguren, is all-engaging mature graphic novel.
With crab-handed characters making a comeback of sorts with the popularity of actor Evan Peters' Jimmy Darling on American Horror Story: Freak Show, now seems like a good time to briefly revisit the awesomeness of Jimmy Palmiotti's 2012 offering, Queen Crab.

Released as a slim, hard-covered graphic novel in 2012 by Image Comics, Queen Crab represents long time collaborative writer Palmiotti's initial foray into solo writing. After having been a long time fan of his work on the two most recent Jonah Hex series from DC (among other titles on which he's written), investing on a very reasonably priced $12.99 graphic novel was not much of a leap.

With thematic beats from sources ranging from Kafka's Metamorphosis to any number of jilted-lover romance novels, Queen Crab tells of the figurative and very literal transformation of protagonist Ginger. If the premise rings of your standard comic book origin story, the execution reflects a much more grounded and mature introduction to a promising character. While adjectives "grounded" and "mature" as comic book/movie descriptors have lost their luster in a time when nearly every such product attempts to be more grounded, and mature and financially successful than Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, here the smaller, more personal scope of the conflict keeps the story from being overwrought with its own sense of self-importance.

The suggestive cover and titillating pin-ups included as extras by other artists not withstanding, Artiz Eiguren's artwork stays away from the cheesecake. Employing a visual style that veers away from a more traditional comic-book characterization of both Ginger's figure and transformation, Eiguren's art effectively evokes a horror vibe. With a color palette reminiscent of Richard Corben's recent Poe adaptations for Dark Horse Publishing, and with an overall style similar to that of Avatar Press star Jacen Burrows (The Courtyard and Neonomicon), the artwork blends three genres (romance/horror/sci-fi) into a single well-constructed tale.

The story is familiar: Ginger is getting married, and (surprise, surprise!) she is marrying the wrong guy. So wrong, in fact, that on their honeymoon, he attempts to murder Ginger by casting her overboard the cruise ship they are celebrating on. As her body sinks to the briny depths, something happens...

Beware blue underwater light shows!
The result of Ginger's underwater face-to-face with a blue light show are some impressive and unusual body modifications, as well as a desire for revenge. Soon after catching up with her husband the story jumps two years ahead when Ginger's former best friend and romantic friend-with-benefits from early on finally catch up with her in Florida. Rather than going the superhero route with her new talents, Ginger chooses to blend in, joining an aquatic show, in an effort to lead a semi-regular life. While not quite in a freak show, Ginger's occupation does seem permissible in the real world setting, as one that would allow her to exist without drawing undue attention to her situation.

I've reread Queen Crab a number of times since it found it's way to my comic bookshelf, and, as mentioned earlier, as a character worthy of further exploration, Ginger has promise. I also hope Palmiotti does not write a sequel. Not because I wouldn't buy, and very likely enjoy, it, but the themes and open-ended possibilities are better reflected by a natural next step for the character that remains only inn our imagination. We, the reader, don't know what comes next, though we do realize that Ginger has embarked on a great adventure. It would be just too obvious (and traditional) for us to be privy to where that adventure takes her. Sometimes a single experience with a strong character who's arc is completed by being incomplete just rings truer than the over the top explanations that would come along with more background and a sequel.

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