Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Biopsy Report: The Prognosis is Good...

More reviews for Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours, the first from Jay Faulkner over at Following the Nerd:

Review: Cancertown 2 - October 15th, 2012 by Jay


A couple of years back I happened upon a wonderful, bizarre graphic novel entitled Cancertown. When I say ‘happened upon’ it is fairer to say that I hunted it out as I had a passing acquaintance, at the time, with the artist, Stephen Downey.

As a self-admitted Marvel zombie (and DC aficionado) my taste in graphic novels normally ran to the mainstream, regular tales of spandex covered heroes and heroines, with only the occasional foray into the ‘other side’ of comics, such as O’Barr’s The Crow, Watchmen, etc.
Then Stephen recommended Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth – which is an amazingly complex and twisted story that feels like it is part fantasy and part gritty crime noir in which society’s lost and dispossessed sometimes lose themselves – to me, written by the breathtakingly weird genius that is Cy Dethan; the rest, as they say, is history.

The anti-hero , and main character, of the story – Vince Morley – was an awesome character, who deserved to be up there with the likes of John Constantine and Dresden and while Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth could very well have been a stand-alone story – and while Cy was kept busy penning the likes of The Indifference Engine, Slaughterman’s Creed, and White Knuckle – it was also crying out for a sequel.

And, like a willing genie, Cy granted our wish as, as if fully formed from his temple (not to mention artist Graeme Howard, colourist Peter Mason, and the letterer extraordinaire that is Nic Wilkinson!), Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours sprang to life!

Set six months after the events of Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth, Vince Morley is a dangerously sick man. Bugfuck is in a psychiatric hospital, sticky fingers picking through the darkest corners of the mind that brought Cancertown into existence. The crossing points between Morley’s two realities are wearing thin and all the rules are changing.

From the start the stakes seem somehow raised in Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours.  That isn’t to say that the original was a slouch, by any means, but there is a much greater sense of urgency here.  The fact that familiar faces are seen, and dispatched, in pretty short order is definitely a key factor here, and one that I found surprising as I thought that the Players were going to be one of the corner stones of the tale, along with Morley himself.  Of course, if you want to introduce a new threat what better way to do so than by taking down one of the big guns?  As Ric Flair was wont to say, to be the man you have to beat the man … and to be the Player you have to beat the Player.  And mutilate, and decapitate, and so many other –fates that I can’t even think of!

It isn’t all action, of course – though there is plenty of gut-wrenching carnage along the way – as Dethan is extremely adept at writing dialogue that is a realistic and believable as the characters deserve.  This is where Nic Wilkinson’s  lettering comes into its own, with a unique ‘voice’ created for each of the old and new faces alike.  The original Cancertown had some of the most amazing art of any comic title that year (or any year) and while Graeme Howard and Peter Mason may not bring the same level of detail and clarity to the story – especially where Downey and Cook separated reality and Cancertown itself with such brilliance – they more than make up for it with truly harrowing and emotive art that easily portrays the horror of where Morley finds himself this time around.  Howard’s art has a nightmarish and fevered quality to it that makes you feel that Morley is always in Cancertown, even when he’s in reality – or as close to reality as he manages to cling on to, this time around. Peter Mason’s colours are extremely well suited to the art, warm and rich when required and macabre and stomach churning too as evidenced by the decaying and decomposing giant floating eyeballs.

There are two issues with Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours, but these are both relatively minor.  The first is that you really need to have read Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth prior to the sequel or you may find yourself drowning in the deluge of characters and story; the second is that, as good as it is, this sequel isn’t as good as the first one.  Now, bear with me here for a moment as I explain something: Cancertown 2 is still an EXCELLENT book, which shows that there is still an alternative to Marvel and DC – to the mainstream heroics found in the Avengers or Superman – and it delivers on many, many levels.  It just felt like it ended as it got going; if there is a sequel on the horizon, and Cancertown 3 is the finale in a trilogy, then this will be an amazing mid-chapter book and even if there isn’t then it is still a pretty damn amazing one in its own right.

So, all I can say in summary is that if you like stories that straddle the thin line between fantasy and reality, between nightmares and daydreams, between love and hate – like a lovechild of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere – then you will like this too.
…and, so you should!

Following that, we have this little gem from Adam Cheal at Comic Booked:

Cancertown 2: Comics Review ~ Comic Booked

Vince Morley is a dangerously sick man. Within the monstrous alternate world of Cancertown, a creature of horrific violence and limitless rage has burst from the nightmare landscape. The foundations are shaking and the old powers are falling. In response, the deadliest of Cancertown’s inhabitants seeks Morley out to claim a favor that could cost him more than just his life. 
Cancertown 2 is the eagerly awaited sequel to the original horror graphic novel “Cancertown” written and co-created by Cy Dethan. I first heard about this book from the book artist Graeme Howard and the publisher Markosia when they featured in a British Showcase column and were both very excited about the book. With this kind of endorsement, I wanted to get stuck in and review it.

The first volume of Cancertown concentrates on the lead character Vince Morley, a man suffering from Cotard’s Syndrome. This ailment convinces the person that they are dead, rotting away or have missing organs. Vince however has a tumour the size of a fist in his brain that lets him experience visions from a diseased world co-existing with our own that quite frankly, we are lucky not to know about. In this second book, Vince is really on the edge of reality and takes the readers down into the rabbit hole with him. The book opens up into the realms of Cancertown, a nightmare plane of pain and suffering filled to the brim with creatures and beings that seem to have spawned from the depths of Hell itself. One thing to learn from this opening is that no matter how big a deal you think you are, there’s always a bigger fish!

Our leading man Vince awakes in a fluster and receives a phone call requesting that he come to the hospital to see an extremely sick girl, who would appear to be the source of the origins of Cancertown. After some heated exchange and disturbing revelations, Vince is forced to enter the inner sanctum of Cancertown to find answers. What ensues is a rollercoaster of twisted brilliance that will have you either turning pages to find out what’s coming next, or closing the book before it gets dark to ward off the nightmares.

The writing by Cy Dethan is bold, daring and interesting. The book and writing style really reminds me of the early Sandman books by Neil Gaiman, but pushing the boundaries that those books never could in a mainstream world. The dialogue has not been diluted down and is some of the most extreme I have seen in a graphic novel. This is a testament to both Dethan for being brave enough to write it and publisher Markosia for having the guts to print it. The characters are also really original and like nothing I have ever seen before. The main character is so realistic, you won’t know whether to love or hate him. He reminds me somewhat of a cynical John Constantine character, but one you would be even less likely to want to piss off!
Cancertown 2 issue 2 page 2
The artwork by Graeme Howard is fantastic. The creatures and monsters that have been created for this book are original and disturbing. The panels and angle choices all work really well and add greatly to the experience of reading the book. The storytelling works and flows effortlessly.  The colours by Peter Mason compliment the artwork and really add the tone to the book. Everything is full of grime and grit, which add to the nightmarish nature. Letters by Nic Wilkinson are worth a mention too. There are some interesting fonts on offer and many characters have a unique style which distinguishes them from one another. The layouts are good and well placed, so the artwork is allowed to shine. The sound effects are kept to a minimum which works well within the context of the story. Too much would have added a cartoony style that would have looked weird, so I am happy with the way this was handled.

Overall I would say this is one of the sickest, most disturbing and harrowing books I have read, needless to say that I loved it! This novel is one for adult readers only and may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Anyone that loves a good original horror would be more than happy to read this. So if you are in the market for something engaging, different and scary for this Halloween, you can’t go far wrong with this. 

Cancertown 2
Reviewed by Adam Cheal on Oct 29.
Outstanding British horror book, a must read!

Bold, Brave and Beautiful

Rating: 9.0

Cancertown 2: Blasphemous Tumours launches at the Thought Bubble convention in Leeds this November, and can be ordered directly from me via email.

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