Although superheroes like X-Men and Batman still hold lots of readers in thrall, there is now a whole new world of comics with more on its mind than space invaders and mutant outlaws. Available in chain bookstores, as well as in comics and science-fiction specialty shops, the best of the alternative comics are showcasing some of the quirkiest and most original storytelling talent in America today.

In the early 1980s, Alan Moore took over scripting DC Comics’ Swamp Thing, weirded it up, and made it a hit. In 1986, he wrote the 12-issue Watchman series, possibly the ultimate superhero comic. The graphic novel, V For Vendetta, a dark political thriller set in a rigorously imagined fascist Britain, appeared in ’88. Then, at the height of his popularity, Moore announced that he was through with mainstream comic books. Since then he’s evolved into one of the most interesting writers a. Not comic-book writers, writers.

Big Numbers, a projected 12-part, 500-page work (the first two parts done in collaboration with artist Bill Sienkiewicz), promises to be his masterpiece. Moore’s scheme is to dramatize the dynamics of one fragile contemporary community using fractal mathematics as his central metaphor. Fractal mathematics? Yes, but don’t worry: Even if you can’t balance a checkbook, the story is utterly absorbing, and the plot — which revolves around the decision to build an American-style shopping mall in an English city — teemingly fertile.

Big Numbers
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