Comics Time: The Numbers of the Beast


The Numbers of the Beast

Shawn Cheng, writer/artist

Partyka, April 2010


$I forget

Buy it from Partyka, probably

The challenge of reviewing a shitty comic by a friend is obvious; the challenge of reviewing a good comic by a friend less so and thus perhaps more pernicious. Indeed many people find the whole enterprise suspect and distasteful, and I can hardly blame them. I think that rather than gushing about the gestalt of the project it behooves me to talk about what my pal Shawn Cheng’s The Numbers of the Beast does well as specifically as possible. Scales, for one thing: The reptilian hide of the Hydra, used to illustrate the number 9 in Cheng’s Greek-myth-based take on a child’s counting book, is a gorgeous multiplicity of little semicircular panels; I’m particularly taken with the tangent lines between two of the beast’s overlapping necks. The curly hair of the Chimera (#4), Geryon (#6), and Pan (#7) is handled with similar precision, as are the stippled dots that denote the gray stone of the Basilisk’s victims (#8) or the Colossus’s legs (#10). Cheng takes necessary detail and doubles it as ornamentation. His creature designs, meanwhile, are probably the most accessible in a career filled with critters, nearly all of them seem based on simple circles or ovals, dovetailing with Cheng’s never-smoother line and befitting a book dedicated to Cheng’s toddler daughter. The shiny ivory cover stock alone makes the comic worth a peek. Fans of Fantagraphics’ Beasts! books, here’s one for your SPX shopping list.

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