“Queen Crab” is a graphic novel origin story for the title character with the promise of more stories in the future. As a little piece of pulp fiction, it’s a good enough read although the story does go dark fast and often so be warned. In fact, the life story of Ginger Drake is pitch-black. She lives in a rundown Brooklyn neighborhood full of lowlifes; she has casual sex like other people take aspirin; she must have sex with her boss to keep her job; and she’s marrying a guy she hardly knows or cares about. Pretty grim stuff. Where do you go from there? Good question. The bigger question to ask is what is the motivation for this project and the answer is to launch a character. If this is your thing, then give it a try. As I say, this is a promise of more to come and it basically functions as a very dark little set piece.
On her honeymoon cruise, Ginger is thrown overboard by her husband. She survives but not fully human. Given all of that misery, it would come as no surprise if her transformation into a crab-woman, or “Queen Crab,” had something to do with Kafka. In “The Metamorphosis,” the down-trodden Gregor Samsa, just a little pawn in the machinations of the modern world, literally turns into a cockroach. There’s a slight connection in “Queen Crab” if you’re looking for that literary sort of thing or maybe that’s just me. Otherwise, it’s really a straightforward story about a girl who has been kicked in the teeth by life and ends up with crab claws instead of hands and arms. And that might make some of you think of Don Knotts in “The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” about a loser that gets turned into a fish, more than it inspires thoughts of Kafka. Or it might conjure up thoughts for some to various horror movies. Again, this is more me than the author/creator. I guess I keep struggling to find redeeming value here.
Jimmy Palmiotti (Jonah Hex, Time Bomb) can be a good writer. He’s made a name for himself as a good-natured tough guy who can create any number of characters. And that’s what he is aiming for with this work. He’s created the character, yes. And so far, it is more of a pitch than a story. You’ve got a female character who is thrown into various situations designed to titillate. The artwork itself can be inviting in the way that Artiz Eiguren brings out the gritty aspects of this story. The cover art by Sas Christian, however, really pushes the envelope in bad taste and just leaves you scratching your head. Even “Howard The Duck” had to walk a fine line between being subversive and being marketable by taking its presentation seriously. The alternative cover by Amanda Conner would have been a much better choice.
Push comes to shove, I might say that “Queen Crab” has an authentic voice. The characters are all hateful, rough and ready, eager to climb into bed with each other, oblivious to anything subtle, significant or worthwhile. This might make many of you think of the infamous reality TV show, “Jersey Shore.” Once Ginger has grown her crab limbs, she blends in fairly well with the regulars on Coney Island, in a surreal way. When a guy suggests she’s part of the local freak show, Ginger is mortified because she mistakenly thinks he’s insulted her breasts. Her response: “Fuck you! My tits are perfect.” It’s an intriguing comment. I think if Jimmy Palmiotti gathers up a lot of his notes and develops and refines this, he may find himself going beyond the provocative content into something deeper. As I say, Palmiotti is a good writer. But he is also a provocateur. And he would be the first to admit that.
So far, this is an uneven teaser that will offend more readers than Palmiotti might have bargained for. This may require an overhaul but if he does take this further, maybe Palmiotti will get closer to Kafka coming to the Jersey shore.
“Queen Crab” is published by Image Comics, made possible through a Kickstarter campaign. It is a 64-page hardcover. Retail price is $12.99. Visit your local comics shop, bookseller or you can satisfy your curiosity at half the price thru Amazon.