Review: Tumor

What if you couldn’t trust your eyes, your ears, your memory?  What if your past became indistinguishable from your present?   In Tumor, Joshua Fialkov and Noel Tuazon deal with just those questions: when P.I. Frank Armstrong is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and basically sentenced to death, he’s given one last opportunity to redeem himself, one last case.   But the girl looks just a little bit too much like Frank’s late wife, a beautiful woman who haunts him when the tumor makes it too hard for Frank to separate the past from the present, reality from hallucination, and as he digs in deeper trying to protect her, he starts losing control of what’s left of his life.

Noel Tuazon’s black-and-white art fabulously suited to the noir tale, particularly as the story goes on and the core cast is rounded out and the differences in how the characters move, how they have aged, and how they dress becomes more and more familiar.  Slight stylistic shifts make it easy to pick out the dreamier segments without exaggerating them too much, keeping the story grounded and Frank’s loss of control frightening, while Frank’s frequent seizures are cleverly illustrated reminders of how quickly his mind is falling apart – and how much of the past is catching up to him.   And at the back of the book, some of Tuazon’s concept sketches have been included (as well as a Frank Armstrong character-piece by Fialkov, a short essay about L.A., and an afterward).

With the recent boom of crime comics, we’ve had a lot of great stuff to pick and choose from, and make no mistake, Tumor is a fantastic read.  In true noir fashion, no one is quite what they seem and betrayal is inevitable, but Fialkov and Tuazon have imbued their book with a genuine sense of melancholy and fear, a comic that blends the grime and depth of Criminal‘s best world-weary characters with the narrative playfulness and inevitable tragedy of Memento.  Beautifully packaged and cleverly constructed, Tumor is a grim, undeniably engrossing read.

Grade: A-

– Cal Cleary

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