REVIEW: Cancertown: An Inconvenient Tooth


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 (2009)/Markosia (2011)
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, Colors 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 liking 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 Irish artist Stephen Downey comes an original six chapter graphic novel following Vince Morley, an 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 on 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 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 was fresh out of the blocks when the book was released, Downey is one of the very best talents on this isle. 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 in a coll little extra.
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 unfortunately it will be one of the last as Insomnia went to the wall last year. Markosia have taken over the publication of the book along with Dethen and Downey’s newer OGN, Slaughterman’s Creed.
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.