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In recent years, the comic world has witnessed a small explosion of gritty noir stories. Most notably, Darwyn Cooke received acclaim for his adaptation of Richard Stark’s Parker books and Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips saw great success with their Criminal series and “superhero noir” book Incognito. (Yes, I realize these are mainstream examples.)
Tumor, by Los Angeles writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and Toronto artist Noel Tuazon, is another great addition to this subgenre. It tells the story of aging, self-pitying private investigator Frank Armstrong. He’s recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and handed what will likely be his final case. As the titular tumor takes a deeper hold of his brain, he drifts in and out of reality, unable to tell past from present. With its shifting reality and unreliable narrator, Tumor feels similar to Memento, but even more tragic and lamentful. Tuazon’s gritty, hurried style, befitting a career creating storyboards for animation companies, works perfectly with the jumpy nature of the fast-paced story and Frank’s mental decline. While the art coupled with superb book design might seem too slick for the typical Broken Pencil reader, it all makes for an attractive package. Aspiring illustrators and writers will enjoy the bonus features included: the original pitch from Hale Fialkov and Tuazon as well as early character sketches and concept designs. (Matthew Daley)

Joshua Hale Fialkov & Noel Tuazon, 240 pgs, Archaia Entertainment, archaia.com, $14.95

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