Neal Shaffer and Daniel Krall's ONE PLUS ONE might not be perfect, but goddamn if it isn't intriguing. Striking a chord somewhere between Hard Eight and Twilight Zone, we meet three disconnected characters that intertwine, inevitably: the gambler looking for a final stake, the drunk writer that can see death on everyone's face, and the traveler with a murky agenda that ties them together with ghostly strings between the hands of a backroom card game.
Between the hopeful and the hopeless, the air of the supernatural permeates ONE PLUS ONE. Shaffer's characters speak with a broke-down weariness that somehow makes the story's weirdness more unsettling. He keeps his own counsel, though, and doles out bits of information in fits and starts that moves the story along with a somnambulistic ease. In a book that offers more questions than answers, that's quite a feat; ONE PLUS ONE is refreshingly oblique, yet written with the confidence to land its punches when needed.
Krall has a precise kind of chaos in his line that recalls Daniel Clowes' early, near-schizoid Eightball work. It's not out of line to think of ONE PLUS ONE sharing a similar atmospheric weight as Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. There's a knowing detail to the grit in the spaces he creates, his characters are all slouchy and wall-eyed, worse from the drink and worse from their world and the damage that it does. Everyone smokes, and it peels across the panels in fat curls that you can feel in your chest.
ONE PLUS ONE is an auspicious, engaging introduction for both creators, and one that leaves you wondering what's next, both for the survivors of the tale and the men that made it.
Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.