Book Review: “Numb” Mind-Numbing

Walking the cold, crowded streets of downtown, I once spotted, in the part of a passing and bravely unzipped jacket, the words “Shakespeare hates your emo poems.” This image recurred, unpleasantly, upon encountering Numb, a graphic novella by Joshua Kemble.

Kemble’s autobiographical short, short comic “about lost love and broken memories” describes a breakup with his then-girlfriend muse and his consequent writer’s block.

As the disturbed protagonist navigates a pantone world of dark t-shirts, bloody angel wings, drugs, razor blades and coffee spoon poetry, it becomes all-too-obvious that Kemble taps into the Myspace generation’s penchant for youthful melodrama. Suddenly, in the last panel of the 20-page main plot, he has the pedestrian realization that his inspiration should be less introverted, and that he should turn to his surroundings for contentment. Everything magically becomes alright.

There is a naked truth that comes across from the story and emotions of its author, but any charming effect it may have had is obliterated by the heavy-handedness of the presentation. The medium garrotes the message with an infinite length of hi-fi recording tape.

There is a one-page pause illustrated with falling snow at the end of the main story, separating it from a six-panel exercise in self-satisfaction that Kemble calls a biography. Mostly, he just uses the space to complain about his day job and hometown, but there’s just enough of it to be annoying. Ultimately, Kemble proves that this is all just a masturbatory exercise in self-promotion and that he is an excellent illustrator in desperate need of a writing workshop.

..Chris Tait

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