• Katie Liggera

COUNT

Writer & Illustrator: Ibrahim Moustafa

Publisher: Humanoids

Count, Cover by Ibrahim Moustafa, Humanoids, Moustafa

WHAT IS IT?

The classic revenge novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, is masterfully reimagined as a science-fiction graphic novel with a diverse cast of characters, floating islands, and robots.


Count parallels the technological world of Tron: Legacy and has a charming, but lethal robot like Baymax in Big Hero Six.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

(Minor Spoilers)

Protagonist Redxan Samud begins as a highly praised crew member on the floating ship vessel, Forreas. When Redxan earns the coveted promotion of space captain, the rank advancement allows him to marry the woman of his dreams, his beloved Meris.


Redxan's talents have made him many enemies, including a powerful societal magistrate, the envious Onaxis. Immediately following the blessings of Redxan's wedding with Meris and his new reign over the Forreas, Redxan is framed for treason against the Union government. As punishment, Redxan spends thirteen years in a floating prison colony called the Dif.


After years branded with a "Count" prison number levitating above his head, Redxan's resentment toward the Union, Onaxis, and his jealous rivals festers. With the help of the elderly fellow inmate Aseyr, Redxan breaks out of the Dif, determined to enact murderous revenge. Will revenge and his new identity as a wealthy Count bring Redxan peace? Or will innocent people get caught in the crosshairs of his desire for retribution?


WHAT WORKS?

  • Ibrahim Moustafa gleaned character archetypes and themes from the literary source text and reshaped the story into his own glorious vision. Every narrative decision is cohesive, and Moustafa exhibits expert control over the pacing in his graphic novel.

  • As both the illustrator and writer of Count, Moustafa clearly created the exact science-fiction machinery, futuristic technology, and diverse character designs he envisioned. Count is more than a narrative retelling; it's a magnificently redesigned world brimming with artistic originality.

  • Brad Simpson coloring is exactly what Moustafa needed to fully convey the sci-fi atmosphere. Armor and weapons appear almost digital, glowing with a fluorescent hue.

  • Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou's lettering expresses the psychological affliction Redxan endures through densely bolded words sprawling SFX.

  • Moustafa's art has a hypnotic quality on the page. The imagined, futuristic world in Count features gorgeous floating islands, robot armies, and sparkling weaponry, and Moustafa's artistry makes this universe completely believable.

  • Characters are given transparent visages, immersing readers in the emotional pathos of Redxan's psychological journey.

  • Although the latter half of Count is shiny and emboldened with vivid colors, Simpson's color work on the Dif is equally as moving. The prison cell reeks of oppression, shaded with gritty gradients and heavily shadowed backgrounds.

  • The word "count" is used as a motif in several ingenious ways. Every time the word appears in different contexts, I found myself chuckling at Moustafa's cleverness.

  • Extreme emotion is entirely present through Otsmane-Elhaou's spiked speech balloons. Words are always appropriately spaced and never crowd one another.

  • The character arc of Redxan is compelling and hits every narrative beat without feeling heavy-handed. Moustafa writes Redxan as a flawed character who must challenge those flaws if he ever wants to truly experience catharsis. Redxan is a fleshed-out character, never feeling static or archetypal.

  • A favorite character of mine is Aru, Redxan's loyal robot companion. Every human character in Count encounters inward conflict that affects their behavior. Aru only follows orders, yet he is stalwart, sweet, and can obliterate an entire army. He's wonderful and I wish I had my own Aru.

  • The action scenes are dynamic, alternating panels honing in on wide-angle exterior shots and then cutting in, focusing on a gesture or important movement. Also, the sparsely decorated landscape backgrounds in these scenes are gorgeous, giving readers the impression of an oil painting. Props to Simpson for the impressive coloring!

  • You can further admire the ingenuity of genre-bending The Count of Monte Cristo by appreciating Moustafa's work through the analytical lens of intertextuality: analyzing an adaptation by taking into account the cultural influences and connections involved with both the source text and the adaptation.

  • Count doesn't come across as derivative, despite being a re-telling. I was enamored by the way Moustafa draws from multiple literary genres, cinematic tropes, and cultural influences to craft an inspired tale.

  • Nearly all the characters are diverse, which is lovely to see in the representation department. Not only that, but Redxan himself is drawn as ethnically ambiguous. Therefore, many readers have the opportunity to resonate with Redxan's ethnicity.

  • Thank you, Ibrahim Moustafa for the powerfully quotable dialogue in Count. Here's one of my favorite drops of wisdom from Aseyr: "Your anger is well-earned. But I have seen the folly of man's anger reach the scale of war . . . and I would encourage you – seek to make the world better than it was when you were stolen from it."


WHAT DOESN’T WORK?

  • Content Warning: Count isn't seriously graphic, but many murders are shown and a specific character death is absolutely heartbreaking.

  • The only transition break that threw me off was after Redxan escapes from prison. Readers are subsequently thrown into a different part of Redxan's life in medias res, and it was initially disorienting as far as the story structure is involved.

  • The character Amai definitely deserved more character development, but the graphic novel has a tight, fast-paced script that didn't allow for too much character expansion beyond the main protagonists/antagonists.

Count, Page #16, Humanoids, Moustafa

WHY SHOULD I READ IT?

Revenge stems from hard-heartedness and a bitterness within oneself that seeks to right a wrong. Personally, I never want to enact revenge but I struggle with forgiveness, so this story dramatically moved me. Count doesn't dance around the subject – and consequences – of revenge. Instead, Count almost acts as a moral guide on the topic, teaching readers about crucial life lessons within a beautifully illustrated sci-fi setting.


Count wraps its arms around you with care, but firmly demands your attention. Moustafa relays the straightforward moral lessons of Count that may alter your perspective and inspire you. The science-fiction elements are innovatively imagined, buoyed by illustrations that could be framed on your wall.


After reading, you won't be able to count the hours you'll spend thinking about the emotional resonance of Count.


WHAT DO I READ NEXT?

If you like the writing:

  • Jaeger by Ibrahim Moustafa

  • James Bond: Solstice by Ibrahim Moustafa

  • By the Horns by Markisan Naso & Jason Muhr


If you like the art:

  • High Crimes by Christopher Sebela & Ibrahim Moustafa

  • Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. by Jody Houser & Ibrahim Moustafa

  • Sam and His Talking Gun by Drew Ferguson & Lee Ferguson


ABOUT THE CREATORS

Ibrahim Moustafa – Writer & Illustrator (@Ibrahim_M_)

  • Multitalented: He is a writer and self-taught artist in the comics industry, having been nominated for Eisners in both categories.

  • Prolific: He has worked for Marvel, Image, Dynamite Entertainment, Dark Horse Comics, and BOOM!.

  • Ibrahim has competed in breakdancing competitions!


Brad Simpson – Colorist (@20EyesBrad)

  • Prolific: Despite only starting in comics industry six years ago, he has illustrated dozens of comics, including comics for publishers like Marvel, Image, Vault, and AfterShock.

  • Dream Team: He was the colorist on Join the Future alongside letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

  • He lives in Oakland, California and approaches each comic project without reusing color palletes from previous work.


Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – Letterer (@HassanOE)

  • Award Winner: He is the editor of the PanelxPanel digital magazine, which has won an Eisner Award. He also hosts the YouTube channel series, Strip Panel Naked and is passionate about sharing lettering techniques and information.

  • Prolific: Hassan has worked on over twenty comic series, despite only entering the comic industry in 2016.

  • Outlander: Hassan hails from England and occasionally creates films.


HOW DO I BUY IT?

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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.


All Count characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of Humanoids and copyright or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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©2021 by Matt Ligeti the Comic Book Yeti.