Friday, February 04, 2011

Book Review - Cancertown : An Inconvenient Tooth - Cy Dethan 7*

Cy Dethan has been on the British comics scene for less than 5 years, but in addition to writing Starship Troopers Dethan has also created the Harlan Falk mini-series and has at least three other comics in production, The Ragged Man, The Indifference Engine, Slaughterman's Creed.

Cancertown is a very strange creation indeed.  Vince Morley has a brain tumour, and two things are possible, either the tumour is allowing him to walk between the real world and the monster populated Cancertown, or he is delusional and imagining his frequent and dangerous adventures.  Morley talks to himself a lot, he thinks through what he is about to do, he's bad tempered, rude, sharp witted and hopelessly anti-social but forced to work with people, and all these traits, plus Stephen Downey's art, do give him a similar feel to the Hellblazer John Constantine.

Cancertown, whether it exists or not, is a frightening parody of modern London and a dark reflection of any big city's worst elements, the faceless buildings and the Dickensian tumbledown architecture add to the feelings of dread and hopelessness, and Dethan's use of the numerous flying eyeballs neatly mirrors our cities' obsession with CCTV.  The denizens of Cancertown are equally frightening, Crosshair with his army of mutating eye creatures, Corpsegrinder the wizened old man who becomes a twisted demonic creature when he feeds on fear, these are good and interesting characters.

I have two points of criticism about Cancertown. One is Stephen Downey's art which isn't as consistent as it could be throughout, especially with faces, my second is that the motives of the various inhabitants of Cancertown were vague and unclear, perhaps this was deliberate but a little more tightness in the script allowing a fraction more information, and thus less puzzlement on Morley's part, would have made the book better for the reader as well.  That said, this is a good read, it is dark and twisted and a good addition to the horror comic genre.

Morley's sour disposition may or may not be the result of the inoperable tumour he carries in his dead, it's entirely possible that he was a cantankerous misfit before the cancer got him, but there are many mysteries surrounding Morley which also might or might not have links to his illness.  Morley cannot remember simple things sometimes, does he own a hoover, does he posses any clothes beyond the suit he wears?, He lives an apparently lonely, empty life with no family, friends, pets or even pot plants in his life, perhaps these are elements that Dethan will reveal later in the series.  Cancertown has not begun at the genesis point of the story, Vince Morley is shown as being a man, he's no teenage boy, so there is personal history, and perhaps his genesis interactions with Cancertown are still to be revealed.

At the end of this first book of Cancertown, Dethan seems to have wrapped the story up, Morley has been out on his search and rescue mission, he has made some dubious allies and faced down some dangerous opponents, he has also asked for some favours, and favours have to be repaid.  If I can point out another similarity between this first volume of Cancertown and the first tpb of Hellblazer, the first appearance of Constantine in his own comic was with rather scatter gun plots and simpler art, but that character has gone on to become Vertigo's longest running comic.

Cancertown - Cy Dethan

Stephen Downey Gallery

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