February 01, 2007

Fighting the Good Fight

This book was a nominee for the graphic novels category of the 2006 Cybil Awards.

It seems like a truism that cancer isn't particularly funny. So how can you make a comic about it? Brian Fies did—and the result is a true-to-life graphic novel that is funny, as well as touching, sad, and uplifting.

Using a simple visual style that draws from traditional American comics as well as more modern graphic novel formats, Mom's Cancer uses a series of brief vignettes to tell the story of the author's mother's battle with lung cancer, and its effect on the rest of the family. More conventional sequential comics alternate with creative and very conceptual images—such as the two-page spread titled "Inoperable," showing the author's mother as the ill-fated patient from the game Operation, with afflictions such as "brain tumor" and "water on the lung."

Kid Sis, Nurse Sis, and the author all deal with catastrophic illness in different ways, and they antagonize one another as well as growing closer as the cancer runs its course. Meanwhile, the patient herself is irrevocably changed by the illness and its harsh treatment. This is a story that will be all too familiar to many families, but provides comfort in its simplicity and honesty. I wouldn't consider this a YA piece—it's not written from a YA viewpoint or specifically for a teenage audience—but the story will resonate with anyone who has had a family member battle long-term illness. An excellent addition to the area of non-fictional and "important" graphic novels.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd be normally a bit horrified at seeing any work that can make cancer a bit funny... but the idea of the game Operation ... I could see it. I'll have to make sure and look for this one.