Writer - Joshua Hale Fialkov
Artist - Noel Tuazon
Publisher - Archaia Studios Press. $14.95 USD
Tumor was a big Kindle hit a couple years ago, its serialized chapters much in demand. I don’t recall reading a whole lot about it through the usual comics news sites, but maybe that’s just me and my irregular attention to such sites. I actually happened on the book in my local library’s New Releases rack and was drawn to its elegant, clever design, with a stark, sepia image of a middle-aged detective holding a handgun on a Chip Kidd-like partial jacket which cuts off the top of the guy’s skull to line up with an embossed image of a brain on the cloth cover. Add to this the unevenly cut pages—a favorite touch that adds welcome texture to the reading experience the way a fine chef may add an item to a dish for a different mouthfell rather than taste—and I was looking forward to the book.
It’s not a bad effort, though I’ll cut to the chase and say my recommendation is a mild one. The hero in question is an aging P.I. who takes on an undesirable case to find the daughter of a local crime boss. She took off with his money, and her boyfriend, and the boss looks to be much more interested in getting the money back than his daughter’s safety. In fact, he’s probably going to punish her severely, maybe terminally. Our man Frank knows this might be his last case because he’s got a brain tumor and not a lot longer to live. It might have been more novel for this last case to be just another paycheck—more hardboiled and unsentimental, I mean—but no, this case is a chance for redemption, as the girl reminds him of his own wife, also the daughter of a crime boss, and her life cut short long ago because of it, with Frank feeling responsible.
There is much made on the cover copy of the most gimmicky element of the book, which is that due to Frank’s tumor, the narrative jumps around in time. Comparisons are made to the film Memento, and I suppose that’s appropriate enough. Both are gritty but standard crime stories enlivened by the device of non-linear storytelling. In the case of Tumor, though, Fialkov doesn’t do much with the device. The jumps in time don’t add a lot of mystery, suspense or pathos to the story; for the most part they either provide abrupt breaks between action with the unseen intervals either promptly explained in dialogue or narration, or easily deduced. And Fialkov also leans way too hard on the easy device of Frank’s tumor causing him to hallucinate that his current female charge is his dead wife, leading to glimpses back to days gone by where the wife is conveniently posed the exact same way, not just in a similar situation. There were some great opportunities with this device for interesting, thorny juxtapositions and contrasts between the past and present, but Fialkov sticks to a pretty basic remit: Frank failed before, and now he has one last chance to redeem himself by being stronger in almost the same situation. It ends up not a bad book but despite the slightly unusual (for comics) nonlinear narrative, an ordinary one, with strong, no-frills art by Tuazon and a script that could have used not frills but more depth and rough edges. On the plus side, I remember the creators, the character’s name and the story a week or so after reading it and returning it to the library, which is something. And I would call Fialkov one to watch, in that he comes up with some decent concepts and different routes of getting them to market. The big superstar talents of 2015, 2020, are probably not going to be the guys who come up the ranks writing a year of Green Arrow. They’ll figure out new ways and how best to utilize the new media.