Using real science, Matt Hawkins imagines what would happen if someone managed to weaponize cancer. Is it good?
Matt Hawkins and artist Colleen Doran introduce Jack, a leading cancer researcher traveling the globe studying various population groups, trying to find a reason why thousands of people around the world are developing and dying from an aggressive form of viral cancer, which doesn’t respond to any known treatments and no one knows how it’s spread. Governments and scientists are aware of the disease, but can’t decide whether to inform the general public. But it won’t stay secret for long.
Since this is the first issue of the series, Hawkins focuses on world-building, showing the effect the disease is having on the world population and introducing the politics involved. Most interesting to me, especially because he interviewed several real-life cancer researchers, is how quickly ethics is addressed in the book. In the first scene, Jack tells his assistants to take tissue samples from as many villagers as possible as they give out vaccines, the cover for being in the Nigerian village. The assistant asks him point-blank if that is ethical, and Jack responds:
The ethics conversation picks up further on when Jack testifies before Congress on his research, and the politicians debate whether or not to publicize the severity of the disease. However, ethics isn’t addressed in his backmatter, but maybe that’s coming in a future issue.
The backmatter shows how seriously Hawkins is taking making the story realistic. He’s titled his author’s note “Science Class” and that’s what the section is — he talks about what cancer actually is, and includes notes from Dr. Paul Dent, a professor of biochemistry at VCU – he even cites scientific journals. That attention to detail is definitely reflected in the book; the story feels chillingly realistic. Colleen Doran’s art sticks to that realism, grounding the story with a muted palette suiting the somber tone. She creates some very arresting moments, despite the colors sometimes getting a bit muddy.
Overall this issue is a solid introduction to the world, with the action picking up in the last few pages, hooking you in for the next issue. I’m very interested to see how the story develops, and how he continues with the education aspect in the backmatter.