REVIEW: ‘Count’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Count

In association with Humanoids,  Eisner-nominated writer and artist Ibrahim Moustafa gives readers his own sci-fi take on Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale, The Count of Monte Cristo, with his graphic novel Count. Following one Redxan Samud (notice, “Dumas” spelled backward, and also an Arabic name meaning “firm of will“), Count is a thrilling story about seeking revenge, justice, and resisting government oppression. The book is written by Moustafa, with art by Moustafa as well, colors by Brad Simpson, and letters by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou.

When the corrupt officials in the Magistrate government frame and incarcerate him for nothing but their own jealousy towards him, Redxan loses everything. They strip him of his job and ship crew, his freedom, and separate him from his beloved wife, Meris. When he thinks he has no hope left in his dire conditions, hope comes back to him in the form of another prisoner, Aesyr, who gives him the skills and insights he needs to escape. Count sees Redxan on his revenge path, as he reimagines himself to the unsuspecting Magistrate as a wealthy Count. With new allies and one Automaton Retainer Unit (Aru) to assist him, Redxan has all he needs to take on the evil of the Magistrate.

Redxan is a dynamic protagonist. To have someone who starts off the graphic novel so optimistically, only to be beaten down so unceremoniously and recreate himself into something formidable, is truly astounding to read. Moustafa writes his protagonist with such pathos and clear determination throughout. We are on this journey with him as readers, getting clear insight into how and why he does the things he does, whether or not we agree with him. Moustafa does a great job at highlighting the moral dilemmas and struggles Redxan must go through as he must decide how much his vendetta is truly worth. And to have a clearly brown Arab-coded protagonist in that role is amazing to see on the page. In that, Count is a stellar read.

Moustafa is also a very skilled worldbuilder. Redxan’s sci-fi world feels so organically lived in and a truly original creation. While inspired by real-world concepts, it strikes out on its own in some great ways. The technology, the economy, and everything else creates something that feels futuristic and historical. It feels like there’s so much more to explore in this world, and I look forward to whatever else Moustafa might create in it.

While Redxan has the most development and focus, as he naturally would as the protagonist, Count, unfortunately, doesn’t take sufficient time to develop the supporting cast. While characters like Aerys and Amai (the latter is a seafaring profiteer and freedom fighter) are intriguing in their own right, their service in the story is almost purely for Redxan.

We barely get to know them as readers outside of that. The book doesn’t delve sufficiently deeply into their motivations and personalities. Including two main Black characters to be almost purely supportive of the non-Black protagonist isn’t ideal, to say the least. Additionally, the book’s handling of Meris is also not ideal and falls into some problematic tropes regarding female love interests in media. While the story and Redxan’s journey as a whole are engrossing and riveting, I wish it had done better with its supporting cast.

The art by Moustafa, with the colors by Simpson, is absolutely amazing. Moustafa has such rich attention to detail in creating his world and characters in both words and images. The action and dramatic scenes are all the more riveting through the superb art, and the colors add to creating such a richly textured world. In particular, the way the characters are drawn and colored is excellent, showing a variety of skin tones and hair textures that are so great to see on the page.

The lettering by Ostmane-Elhaou is fantastic and adds to the dynamism on the page. Through the various ways he conveys the characters’ tones and emotions through the letter styling, Ostmane-Elhaou makes Count an even more engrossing read.

Count is overall a great and riveting story. With Moustafa’s excellent worldbuilding through its main character’s journey of vengeance, readers will be engrossed in an amazing sci-fi world that has so much to explore. Readers will also identify easily with Redxan and his moral dilemmas throughout the story. While Count‘s supporting cast of characters deserved more attention, the worldbuilding, dynamic story, and the power of Redxan’s arc make an incredible read for any comic or sci-fi fan.

Count is available now wherever comics are sold.

"Count"
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TL;DR

Count is overall a great and riveting story. With Moustafa’s excellent worldbuilding through its main character’s journey of vengeance, readers will be engrossed in an amazing sci-fi world that has so much to explore. Readers will also identify easily with Redxan and his moral dilemmas throughout the story. While Count‘s supporting cast of characters deserved more attention, the worldbuilding, dynamic story, and the power of Redxan’s arc make an incredible read for any comic or sci-fi fan.