Tuesday, 4 August 2009

"Alice in Wonderland on Crack"

I've recently heard that Stephen Downey, artist of Cancertown and the upcoming Slaughterman's Creed, is going to be taking part in an art exhibition in Belfast this month, showing off several pages of Cancertown. Full details can be found over on his blog right now. Congratulations to Stephen on landing the gig!

Thanks to Nic Wilkinson for spotting the following Cancertown review over on the Comic Related website.

Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth
Story by: Cy Dethan
Art by: Stephen Downey
Colours by: Melanie Cook
Letters by: Nic Wilkinson
Cover by: Paul Cartwright
Publisher: Insomnia Publications
Cover Price: 14.99 (UK)
Reviewed By: David O' Leary

Book Summary:
Vince Morley is a man with big problems and a brain tumour like a baby's fist, living with one foot in a monstrous alternate world he calls Cancertown. When the lost and dispossessed of London start tripping over the same cracks in reality he spends his life avoiding, Morley realises he must confront the residents of Cancertown - and risk finding his place among them. Written by Cy Dethan, Pencils/Inks by Stephen Downey, Colours by Melanie Cook, Letters by Nic Wilkinson, Cover by Paul Cartwright. Features a foreword by Bryan Talbot.

Reviewer's Comments:
I have heard quite a bit about this book likening it to a mix between Hellblazer and Alice in Wonderland on crack, and the description is apt. From the mind of Cy Dethan (Starship Troopers) and sensational newcomer Stephen Downey comes an original six chapter graphic novel following Vince Morley, a man dying of an inoperable brain tumour who is either insane or actually able to go to another world filled with creatures of unimaginable vigour and evil.

This book surprised the hell out of me. At first glance the visuals would pull you in immediately but with a coherent plot to boot you are unable to step away from the immaculately paced story following our doomed protagonist. One of the very best things a book can do is deliver a very strong first chapter. By doing that you are ensured of continued interest from the reader. This is one aspect of the overall book that Dethan pulled off perfectly. He revealed just enough of the overall work to make you continue to the next part and so on. In fact, this was one book that I finished in one sitting and, considering its huge page count and enveloping story plot, that was some sitting. How Dethan structured Vince's narrative was particularly interesting. If you see how the word balloons are split with thought blocks the whole process of that shows how vulnerable Vince is even though he doesn't show it to the supporting cast. The thought put into the story was exceptional, the heart between Bugfuck (not really her name) and her father was real and Vince's predicament is never far from his mind and he knows it. The twist behind the origins of the leaders of Cancertown wasn't something I was expecting. Essentially, Dethan put together a hell of a book.

I know for a fact that Irish newcomer Stephen Downey spent over a year working on the book so the work is in fact a wonderful snapshot of the progress he made as an artist over the year plus. The pencils at the end of the book are that bit more tight with less sketchy lines. But from the outset to the end, this book is an excellent product to have on his CV. For someone who is fresh out of the blocks, Downey is one of the very best talents on this isle. My only previous exposure to his work was on Rira (reviewed recently on this site by myself). To try and differentiate between the real world and Cancertown, Downey uses a technique where Cancertown panels are all pencils and colours and no inks and the real world is a fully realised inked page. The technique was an excellent tool in making sure that the two worlds were easily told apart and helped the story no end. Downey at the back of the book lets us in on his techniques for photo referencing. The technique he uses I last saw at the back of the Marvels trade paperback when Alex Ross used a similar process for his art.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the production quality of the book. Think of it as a huge IDW book. With the high end glossy feel to the paper with perfect binding and no cracking on the spine when finished. This was the first book I bought from Insomnia productions but it won't be the last. At Bristol Con this year they were selling a twenty pound three graphic pack which, if the other two were anything like this, sounded like an amazing bargain. Overall there was very little to gripe about this book as just about every aspect of the book was produced with a great love and affection with the end product firmly in mind.

Rating the Issue:

Story
Story: Overall 9
Concept - 9 out of 10
Plot - 9 out of 10
Dialogue - 9 out of 10

Art
Art: Overall 9
Style - 9 out of 10
Storytelling - 9 out of 10
Colour/Tones - 9 out of 10

Importance
Importance: Overall 9.33
To the Title - 10 out of 10
To the Company - 10 out of 10
To the Medium - 8 out of 10

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