One part Memento, one part Maltese Falcon, Tumor from Archaia Comics takes readers on a noir trip through the mind of former private investigator Frank Armstrong. Frank is a man who has lived a troubled life riddled with crime, mystery, and murder, but in the events of Tumor, he gets an unexpected surprise when he is diagnosed with brain cancer. In his very last case, Frank is met with the child of a mobster and memories of his dead wife that come back to haunt him at the most inopportune moments.
Joshua Hale Fialkov does an amazing job at telling an old fashioned detective story, while giving the reader twists and turns down the path towards solving the real mystery of dissecting the fragmented mind of Frank Armstrong. The book, coming in at approximately 200 pages of story, keeps us intrigued through the impeccable character work of the supporting cast to the point that we truly care about each one of them and how their story unfolds. Every single character is flawed, but charming, and in an era of comics when characters are created seemingly to just be flawed and have few redeeming qualities, Fialkov’s vision is a deep breath of fresh air.
With the detailed attention to each character, and an engaging plot line, I could easily see this book working well as a prose novel. This is especially prominent when Fialkov uses scientific cases, and the psychology study of those who have suffered through memory loss.
Don’t misunderstand me, though, because Noel Tuazon has some of the most beautiful artwork that I have seen in a noir comic for quite some time. In black and white, the art style captures the overall tone of the story, while playing into the themes of Frank’s mind with jagged pencil work in dramatic moments, and clean strokes when Frank remembers a more positive time in his life. Tuazon also plays into the story with a silhouette of Frank falling to his death for each chapter separation.
The brilliance of Tumor is not what happens in the story, the twists, and answers that so many mysteries rely on, although that’s there. It’s about the approach and the layers of creativity that it takes to get us to down the road of understanding Frank Armstrong.
If you have a Kindle, you can download Chapter 1 of Tumor for your device for free.