written by Jimmy Palmiotti
illustrated by Artiz Eiguren
Recognized with Eisner nominations for Best Inker and Best Cover Artist in 1997 and 1999 for his work in establishing the Marvel Knights line with Joe Quesada, Jimmy Palmiotti is better known for his variety of authored and cowritten comics, graphic novels, and one-shots for Marvel, Image, Radical, and, most recently, DC Comics. With Queen Crab, Palmiotti not only moves away from the double-edged sword of security and comfort afforded mainstream publications versus that of the creator-owned freedoms accustomed to independent comics, but also presents audiences with his singular voice and vision in this solo endeavor.
Content and context form a crucial foundation for any critical appraisal of Palmiotti's talents as well as the merits of Queen Crab. If they have been aware, audiences only accustomed to Palmiotti's and cowriter Justin Gray's experiments with company toys such as Jonah Hex, the Ray, Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters might recognize a certain level of creative deviance under the surface that challenges the often static, unchanging meta-narrative of modern day superhero comics and chafes under such restrictive controls. In many ways, contextually speaking, Queen Crab is a direct outgrowth and result of years spent mining the shallow wells of branded, licensed products. This is not to say that many of Palmiotti's coplotted company adventures have not been entertaining; however, there is a limit to how much you can truly do with even second-tier company characters. Regarding content, the usage and appearance of swear words in the dialogue of sisters Ginger and Nikki on the first page may strike some uninitiated readers as merely the juvenile excursions of an unrestricted writer. If so, audiences sorely miss out on one of Palmiotti's greatest strengths as a composer—his ability to portray not only realistic and believable situational dialogue, but also honest and sincere characterizations, particularly for female protagonists.
Focusing on Ginger, Palmiotti weaves an intricate story of love, lust, and betrayal in a mere 47 pages. Jettisoning formulaic plot devices and generic tropes of revenge-driven fantasies that more often than not direct and guide a fair majority of female characters in any graphic novel or comic presentation, Palmiotti instead opts for simplicity in crafting the reality of Queen Crab. In that process, Ginger is easily relatable and while her early actions may shock and disturb some readers, she is, nevertheless, authentic. From a disappointing wedding-night scenario to workplace sexual harassment, Ginger's travails and reactions to them to reach even the honeymoon reinforce the pure environment Palmiotti is building. By spending so much time creating such a believable world and filling it with vignette explorations into various secondary characters as they relate to Ginger, Palmiotti heightens the impact of Ginger's eventual bizarre transformation. Unfortunately, this revelation would have been far more dramatic and powerful if Amanda Conner's beautiful front-plate "Q card" design had not been present. While stunning, it does, in some ways, reduce the sheer absurdity of what occurs next.
What is most appealing, however, about Palmiotti's turn with Ginger's character here, despite the introductory spoiler, is that Queen Crab does not descend into some surrealistic nightmare whereby the crab-woman seeks vengeance as the jilted lover against the man who wronged her. In fact, Palmiotti deserves attention here for how normative Ginger's transformation is depicted and accepted by the remaining players in the story. One aspect, however, that deserves mention is how Palmiotti works with Ginger's constant nudity throughout the book. Many times, nudity in comics is utilized as a tease, a temptation, or lure to elicit a pseudo-sexual awareness that borders merely on fetishistic representation. Although what constitutes obscene is in the minds of the readers (and, of course, the Supreme Court), Palmiotti's usage of nudity and sexual encounters never veers off into the realm of eroticism and exploitation. Sadly, these two terms are often mutually inexclusive in comics as sequential portrayals of sexuality and sex would lead many audiences to believe. Yet, Jimmy Palmiotti's Queen Crab is a welcome and decisive move in the right direction, highlighting a maturation of attitudes toward the female form and its representation in the graphic arts.
As Palmiotti reveals in the afterword, Queen Crab was funded entirely by a Kickstarter campaign, meaning that supporters not only believe in the author's capabilities to craft such a story, but also that there's an audience for such independent projects. Although distributed by Image, Queen Crab has a look and feel to it one would expect from Oni Press or even perhaps Icon and Vertigo, so it is surprising that the onus for development fell squarely upon Palmiotti to solicit financial backing to make the book possible. Regardless, Queen Crab is a solid example of concise, focused writing and hopefully a sign of more to come from Jimmy Palmiotti.