Read Number #1 by Box Brown Free Online
Book Title: Number #1|
The author of the book: Box Brown
ISBN 13: 9781940398198
Edition: Retrofit/Big Planet
Date of issue: February 2014
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 825 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.7
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Number 1 is the first issue of Box Brown's solo anthology series Number. It's a traditional black and white, floppy comic, running at 46 pages, printed in a slightly larger size than traditional comic books with a slightly thicker card cover, reminiscent of older one man comic anthologies such as the later issues of Daniel Clowes' Eightball. It is published by Box's own publishing company Retrofit in conjunction with Big Planet. I'm very much a fan of traditional comic formats so I think it's good to see some of the newer wave of comic artists releasing works in this format alongside longer form "graphic novel" style works.
This issue compromises two individual stories, Kayfabe Quarterly and The Documentarian. The main bulk of the issue is made up of the first story with The Documentarian, compromising of only two pages, fulfilling a back up role. Kayfabe Quarterly centers around the character Virgil, a slightly intense kid of indeterminate age (the length of time that the story covers is not revealed but subtle changes in character design hint that it stretches over years) who begins publishing a magazine, the eponymous Kayfabe Quarterly, after a chance meeting with his wrestling hero, Diamond Dick Corduroy, who tells him that "There is a layer of bullshit over everything you see. Everything." This revelation shakes Virgil and drives him to publish a magazine that will expose this layer of BS that exists. Of course, good intentions are not always enough and, as the magazine becomes more popular, we see Virgil struggle to uphold the initial intentions of his magazine whilst dealing with personal problems and a never-wavering interest in Diamond Dick, a pop culture icon who is no longer popular with the rest of the world. The Documentarian has a similar character at its core, although one that is less developed than Virgil. It is told in 8 horizontal, one panel strips with a single one sentence caption in each that tracks a nameless documentary maker from his initial researching phase to how he feels after his documentary has finally been completed. There are hints of self-depreciating humour and anxiety in this which have longstanding roots within the alternative comics community. The brevity of the story means that it will always occupy second place in importance to Kayfabe Quarterly but I feel it is a good companion as it covers similar ground but from a slightly different angle, utilising a different storytelling technique.
What I found most interesting about these two stories was that, reading them not long after I had read Box Brown's recently released graphic novel Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, Box's biography of wrestler Andre the Giant, was how they seemed to compliment that book. Kayfabe Quarterly, although not a wrestling story per se, uses wrestling as a stepping on point to explore how people act in reality. The word kayfabe is a wrestling term to describe staged events that are portrayed as real. Diamond Dick infers that kayfabe occurs every day and it is this idea that Virgil seems to be determined to highlight through his magazine. I wonder if this story is influenced by Box Brown's own research into Andre the Giant and his struggle to confirm how much was true and how much was fabrication, both relating to occurrences inside and out of the ring? Also, I imagine that The Documentarian is a nod to how Box Brown felt himself throughout the process of working on Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, although, perhaps, slightly exaggerated for comedic effect.
I really enjoyed the larger format size as it really gives Box's art a chance to breathe. Box never uses more than four panels per page so they are appear clear and uncluttered. Box also makes use of dynamic layouts but the spaciousness employed means they are always easy to follow. You can see a clear Chris Ware influence both in the character designs of certain characters and the unusual layouts that are sometimes employed. Although there are influences on display it is not derivative and Box definitely has a style that is clearly his own. In one scene towards the end of Kayfabe Quarterly Box switches to a shaky line which highlight the intoxication levels of the characters, whilst hinting towards Virgil's possible mental state at the time. Box only employs this style for three panels, which do not appear in an unbroken sequence, and it is really effective as it is in such stark contrast to the clean, precise line he employs throughout the rest of the work that it really makes the reader notice and think about the reasons behind it rather than it being used merely for stylistic effect.
Overall, I have read a fair few works by Box Brown and I am really impressed by how much he seems to improve with each outing. I think this one man anthology format is a great way for Box to continue to work on his comics and flesh out styles and stories without the pressure of producing a graphic novel length work. I believe if he continues to produce work of this quality he will become one of the leading lights of this generation of comic artists.
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