The Crayfish #1 is an indie comic from Australia. It tells the story of Norman Williams, a veteran of WWII, now a farmer on King Island, Australia in the 1950’s. He lives and works on the farm with his brother Gerry, who is apparently an engineering genius. Norman wears a headset that looks like a large pair of DJ’s headphones with antennas sticking out that serve as hearing aids. One day, while tending the farm and checking up on some missing cattle, he comes across the crew of a Japanese whaling vessel poaching a small pod of whales that are beached on the island’s shore. Norman reports this to the local constabulary who find no trace of the Japanese when they check out the scene. The cops are upset by having their time wasted, but let it go since Norman is a vet. They speak poorly of Norman behind his back, calling him disturbed, which he is able to hear thanks to his headset. Since he gets no help from the cops, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Armed with his headset, a helmet with telescopic lenses and a pistol provided by his brother, he goes off to find the Japanese whaling vessel. He easily dispatches the crew and runs the ship ashore. When the police investigate, the only witnesses are an old man and his granddaughter. The old man tells the police that “the biggest damn crayfish” he had ever seen was responsible for the placement of the ship, thus naming our hero.
Writer Cameron Laird seems to expect the reader to make certain assumptions without providing the details to back them up. For example, the story in this issue takes place in 1950 and at one point we are shown a letter from an Evan Williams, dated 1944. The letter states that Evan doesn’t have hopes of coming home from war, and implores Norman to look after his brother and take care of the island. It is never stated outright, but I think it’s safe to assume that Evan was Norman and Gerry’s father. The letter thus serves as the impetus for Norman’s need to become a vigilante in order to safeguard the island. Another scene shows Norman being awoken by an alarm clock which only gets louder when he dons his headset, to the point that he feels the need to smash the clock. I guess we are supposed to deduce that he is partially deaf from this scene, but it didn’t strike me as obvious. I only knew for sure that he was hearing impaired after reading a short synopsis on the back cover.
Near the end of the issue is a behind the scenes feature by artist Adam Rose, where he talks about his process. He points out that most of the art in the book is fully penciled, but only certain parts are inked in order to draw focus and give the art a rough look. He’s definitely succeeded at creating rough art, but in many places it feels unfinished. Other scenes that take place at night, during a thunderstorm, seem muddled and the details of what’s going on can be hard to distinguish.
The Crayfish presents an interesting concept in a unique setting and is obviously a passion project for the creators. Unfortunately, the execution falls a little short of greatness. Perhaps the creators will grow into the work and the series will improve as it goes on.
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