Crab’s Eleven

A uniquely British comedy with its roots in animation is turned into a graphic novel

Graphic novels are increasingly being used by aspiring film-makers to get their stories out. Since the process of creating a movie or short film invariably involves pulling together a storyboard, the concept of expanding this into a full-blown graphic novel isn’t such a massive leap. And, if you self-publish, it gets your story out into the hands of your audience without the need to work with television networks and producers.

Crab’s Eleven is a project from artist Simon Mackoon and animator Paul Angell. It follows a group of strange characters as they go about their daily business, criss-crossing each other as they go. It’s long on characters and situations, but a bit short on plot – like a handful of crazy Viz characters, bundled up and thrown together in the hope that something might gel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

Part of the problem is the mixed media the creators have used to pull it together. While this jarring contrast of photography, illustration and computer graphics might work better with movement and animation to bring it together, the still frames of a graphic novel don’t give the separate pieces enough cohesion.

There are a few moments that are laugh-out-loud funny, but only a few. Again, this might have improved with the slapstick action of an animation. In graphic novel format, it falls a bit flat.

There are some strong surreal ideas in here, like the man on the way to a fancy dress party who sees an opportunity to pose as a crazy old woman’s lost cat. But by spreading these stronger elements thinly, with others that seem to have little more substance than creating a shock- or vulgarity-factor, any relative subtlety is drowned out.

There’s a spark of something interesting in a Deal or No Deal parody, though again it’s rapidly over-exploited and twisted into a hum-drum character assassination. There’s elements here that could potentially develop into something interesting, though it isn’t compelling enough of a first book to hook me in. If it were a TV series I might be tuning in to episode two, but there isn’t enough of merit to make me itchy to see more.

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