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November 11, 2017

Indie Reviews: Irrational Numbers: Subtraction #2

Irrational Numbers: Subtraction #2
Publisher: Wunderman Comics
Writer: Hannibal Tabu
Artist: Giancarlo Caracuzzo
Colorist: Flavia Caracuzzo
Letterer: Josephine Roberts

Hannibal Tabu’s exhaustively researched Irrational Numbers takes itself way seriously, and the setting has shifted dramatically from the prequel, Addition. As the story moves through 20th Century Sov Bloc sociopolitical exigencies like a hot knife through butter. It’s a departure from the more methodical world building of Addition, save for some anachronistic vernacular, but I guess that’s the point. Tabu and company don’t stand on pedagogic ceremony when there are intrigue and surreptitious bloodletting afoot. As Subtraction #1 closes, tensions between Medea’s Mathematokoi and Sophia’s Akousmatikoi factions threaten to destroy the Vampyr nation outright.

Unbeknownst to either matriarch, a clandestine force known only as Reaper has been systematically exterminating key Vampyr enclaves in Europe for over 1000 years. As de facto leader of the Vampyr nation, Zalmoxis revealed Reaper’s existence to them in an attempt end their internecine hostilities and consolidate his house. In Subtraction #2, we find ourselves at a crossroads for the leaders of the Vampyr sects. Having witnessed the savagery of their common enemy, will they set aside their differences to save their people, or face extinction? Observing the machiavellian exploits of the two leaders, shuffling historical figures and activists around the board, vying for any advantage is a treat. Both are subject to the abject terror of the Reaper’s assaults and the Caracuzzos’ artwork flawlessly translates the frenetic chaos of both factional urban warfare and Reaper’s inexorably efficient melee combat.

I enjoyed tracing the well crafted narrative up until a very counter-intuitive decision at the close of issue #1, so for me, issue #2 definitely had some ground to make up. Tabu’s pacing in these issues, while a touch too alacritous for my taste, allows him to illustrate how pervasive the Vampyr influence has been within the Eastern European political hierarchy. Injecting recognizable historical incidents grounds the fiction, particularly the conflict, and allows knowledgeable readers to identify with the material more personally. One drawback of using real world settings and events is that historical references can simultaneously be very limiting creatively and politically polarizing. In Subtraction these alignments seem more perfunctory, as Sophia and Medea’s only true allegiances are to Zalmoxis and to their respective Vampyr orders.

Overall, the integration of the lore with historical accounts and entities is fascinating. I’m not ashamed to say “Ok Google” got a hearty workout during and after the reading and I look forward to more. However, if I have one complaint with Subtraction as a whole, I feel like Medea and Sophia are surprisingly thin characters. So much effort went into establishing depth in the characters arcs for Pythagoras and Zalmoxis within Addition, but in Subtraction there is little elaboration in terms of the competing ideologies of the Mathematokoi and Akousmatikoi. Again, their allegiances to historical movements may paint a more detailed picture in that regard, but that understanding will not necessarily be inherent to all readers.

Christian Davenport

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