With that said, I'm going to begin this review with a little history: 'Queen Crab' was funded through Kickstarter. For those of you unfamiliar with Kickstarter, think of it as an online meeting place that brings creators and investors together. You don't need a lot of money to back a project – you can donate as little as $1, with rewards being based upon how much you donate. Yes, there are rewards. For the $25 I donated to Jimmy Palmiotti's 'Queen Crab', I received a signed copy of the graphic novel posted to my house, a signed print of the main character, Ginger, a thank you note and the satisfaction of helping an amazing project see publication. And it IS amazing. In fact, if this is the kind of stuff that creators can produce when they don't have the big companies watching over them, I'll definitely be donating again.
In short, 'Crab Queen' is a story about a woman who wakes up on a beach with claws instead of arms, and no memory how such a transformation took place.
The main character, Ginger, when boiled down to a few stark facts, can come across as fairly unlikeable and unsympathetic. She is, for starters, cheating on her fiance, Murry. She's rude to her boss, bad mouthing her openly and referring to her a dyke and an evil bitch. When her cruise ship is late to depart due to a suicide attempt at Chelsea Pier, she comments to herself, “Why can't these crazy people just GO HOME and blow their brains out?” And when Murry is quieter than normal, she's happy, because that's when “[she] like[s] him most”.
So why, despite these facts, is Ginger both likable and sympathetic? I think it comes down to the old saying, “Nobody's perfect.” We can identify with Ginger because of her flaws. Perfection can be intimidating, whereas imperfections make us human. And Jimmy has created a very human character – someone who met a guy years and can't quite let him go... though she's trying for the sake of her future with Murry. Someone who has a job she hates, and a boss she despises... but she stays because she needs the money. And someone who, sometimes, thinks horrible things... but knows enough to not say them aloud.
The story, like Ginger, isn't your average fare. It begins like a typical revenge fantasy: Ginger is thrown overboard by her new husband, Murry, and, unable to swim, she begins to drown. But instead of dieing, Ginger awakens at Coney Island with crab claws where she used to have hands.
During the pre-crab portion of the book, I kept tabs on the characters Ginger would most likely kill. There were two: Murry, who not only attempted to kill Ginger but was also cheating on her (though due to her own infidelity, Ginger had remained silent on this subject), and Ginger's boss, who demanded sexual favours from Ginger whenever she did something at work that should have resulted in termination.
But while I say this story BEGINS like a typical revenge fantasy, it plays itself out as something more. Ginger confronts Murry and, though she does kill him, it's mostly an accident. And Ginger doesn't give her boss a second thought. Instead, she slips away into the cold Atlantic waters, never to be seen again...
Well, mostly to be never seen again. Ginger's sister and ex-lover track her down to Florida, where we're treated to a rather touching reunion.
I found this interesting, the part about her boss. Here was a woman who made Ginger feel powerless and who took advantage of her position of authority. Once Ginger GAINED power, I expected her to extract revenge on those who made her feel small. This didn't happen – at least not with her boss – and it was refreshing.
Jimmy did an amazing job crafting this story, and the ending is truly beautiful. It's beautiful because it can be interpreted in different ways, and Jimmy leaves it up to the reader to decide whether Ginger is really alive, or if this has all been the final dream of a drowning woman. Is the light that appears when she's drowning, and again in Florida as she floats in the ocean, the so-called “light at the end of the tunnel”, or is it a higher power that has saved her and now, two years later, returned? In short, do you have a 'glass half empty' or 'glass half full' kind of outlook?
I loved this story. It's not perfect, mind you. Like the title character, 'Queen Crab' also has its flaws – a spelling mistake here, a grammar error there, an entire page of captions and dialogue that's being shifted down too much – but these are all superficial imperfections which most people won't even notice, because beneath these few blemishes lies an incredibly well-written and well-drawn story.
Is this book for everyone? No. This isn't exactly the kind of story I'd give my mother to read, and if you're the kind of person who takes offence to sex, nudity or swearing, stay away. But for the rest of you, look for it in your local comic store. If you don't see it, ask for it. For the $12.99 cover price, it's hard to go wrong.