Cancertown: Not so much a review…

… as a few observations on execution rather than content.

To those joining late, Cancertown is the first original graphic novel by Cy Dethan, who I have known for many years, and not played nearly enough RPG’s with.

Follow that link: I would recommend buying it, in it’s current electronic form or future resurrection in dead tree format.

While reading Cancertown for the first time, I was struck by something that may mean that I’ve not been reading enough serious graphic novels… or possibly that Cy is doing something that very few writers have down in that form for a long time.

To be more precise, it’s what he’s NOT doing.

And that thing is exposition.

You get thrown headlong into a world that initially looks familiar, then hits you sideways with a new set of rules.

And here’s where it departs from most comics: it doesn’t pause to tell you what’s going on.

It gives you enough information to be getting on with: this weird, threatening stuff is after our hero. Our hero takes it in his stride. At every point, his immediate motivation and line of action is crystal clear, amongst all the mysteries and secrets of Cancertown.

In a medium which is rife with info dumps, "meanwhile, in the villains lair", "as you know, Bob", etc. I was unprepared for a book which didn’t treat me like I couldn’t follow what is, in essence, a pretty straightforward plot without a narrative satnav.

Cy has said before that his way of writing is informed by his time as a slight of hand stage magician: I can only agree that reading Cancertown maintains the feeling that a) What’s really going on is probably not what you think is going on, b) Whatever this guy is doing, he’s sure keeping my attention, and c) I trust this guy to get this whole performance to end somewhere satisfying.

Cancertown is a story that could have been told as just another "mature" comic. In content, it’s not mind bogglingly different from Cy’s strapline of "Chinatown meets The Wizard of Oz", and could have been executed as something unremarkable.

It’s remarkable, if only for actually treating mature readers as mature READERS. It’s been a long time since a comic treated me like a grown up.


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