Review: The Thirty Six
Sometimes I rarely look at or think about comics that aren’t sitting on the shelf of my local shop. You have your mainstream comics with all the flash and shiny bits and pieces that make you grab it off the shelf. Sometimes the flash is all it has going for it. Then you take the scenic route and look at books you wouldn’t ever hear about if it wasn’t for the internet. Indie books are usually a labor of love, and are funded by fans who want to see the idea make it to print. What some of the big two, Marvel and DC, may lack in stories occasionally the little guys are jumping up and down trying to show us an awesome story they have ready to show the public. This is The Thirty-Six to me. It’s a very interesting take on an old Kabbalist legend. There are 36 people who are destined to save the world. The story isn’t new, it’s based on myth, but the writer Kristopher White’s take on it is a breath of fresh air. White crafts a surprisingly interesting story over five issues.
The 36 starts out with Noam, our main character. Noam, we quickly learn, is the shepherd of the 36. He is supposed to find and protect these special people. In his possession is the staff of Moses, yes parting the Red Sea Moses. Noam shows up at Lenore’s house. Lenore was attacked by a Golem. The art of making a Golem is supposedly a lost art, so Noam is trying to figure out what is going on. Some things happen and Noam takes Lenore to his brother Levi’s house. Levi, much like Lenore, is a nerd. There are Tolkien and Doctor Who (yeah!) references sprinkled here and there. The trio is pulled into the events surrounding the Golem in issues 1 and 2. The first two issues set up the story nicely, we find out about the Golem, why it’s here, and what its mission is. I won’t go too much into specifics because you should really pick it up for yourself, but Noam is able to make one of the Golem’s a Tabula Rasa. This reprogrammed Golem becomes a companion and really shines in issue 4 (the comedic relief and story progressing Golem can be seen to the side). I don’t know what White’s plans are, but I’d like to see some more of the Golem if he wants to bring it back or show us more. Noam goes for help to the old holder of the staff of Moses, Ivan. Ivan sees things differently from Noam and things progress from there. Ivan is the villain of the story; he sees what he is doing as right. These types of villains are always the most intriguing. The villain is only a villain because he goes about doing things differently than we think they should, he is right in his own mind and is trying to do good. Sometimes a baddie who is working for the “greater good” in a not so good way is the most fearsome baddie of all.
Speaking of issue 4, it works as the turning point for the story. We find out more about Noam and what the true threat to the 36 and humanity as a whole is. It’s very twisty-turny, so all I’ll say is it involves a leviathan. Issue 4 also serves as backstory. For the most part we are thrown into the story headfirst and figure things out as we go along, but 4 gives us some look into Noam’s past and why this is particularly personal. The flashbacks are handled beautifully and make the story all the more touching. The big showdown occurs in issue 5. We have Noam, Levil, Lorane, and a government organization know as Bar Adam, lead by Benjamin Israel, facing off against Ivan, his crew, and the Leviathan. Noam learns what sacrifice truly means and shows us why being one of the 36 isn’t as cool as people think it may be. It’s a curse, not a gift.
Along the way, we see more of the 36, but I don’t want to delve too deep into the story. I have given a good outline to give you a taste of the story. There are twists and turns thorough the five issues. The creative team did a good job overall. Kristopher White has a good story that is open for more exploring, I’d be happy with a sequel OR a prequel. Micki Zurcher does a beautiful job on the coloring, and each issue has a few pin-ups in the final pages by Chris Thorne that are stunning. Artist George Zapata has a very unique art style. He has nice page setups and pacing, but his loose linework doesn’t always work and hit the tones it needs. I will give Zapata a round of applause because he grows stronger and the art becomes beautiful throughout the book, but there are still some pages that could have been ironed out slightly. The colors and art working to breathtaking effects on some panels, but there are a few awkward ones sprinkled about. I’m excited to see how Zapata grows as an artist if the 36 is revisited.
Verdict: Overall, this is an interesting new take on an old story. There are strong and interesting Jewish characters and heroes, something you don’t see much of in comics. There is enough answered for the reader, but enough left open so more can be added to the universe. I kind of got the feeling of the TV show Heroes, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Heroes Season 1 before it got to be a bit of a letdown. This is an indie book that deserves all the attention it gets, even with my few quibbles I give The Thirty-Six an A.
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