Somewhere in this comic is a good idea. Man gets cancer, later finds out that that’s a good thing and gives him powers of some kind? That has potential. Unfortunately, “Malignant Man” squanders all of it by presenting a by-the-notes rundown of this sort of story: man seem hopeless, inciting incident occurs, mysterious bad guys want him dead, he’s rescued by even more mysterious do-gooder who knows all about him and will reveal all in a shocking manner. It’s clichéd, uninspired storytelling coupled with clunky, laughable dialogue, and art that’s too good for what it has to draw.
Alan has a brain tumor and is going to die. There’s no question of this and it only looks like he’ll be spared that horrible, painful death when he intervenes in a robbery, and is shot in the head. Except, he doesn’t die, because his cancer saves him by not being cancer it seems, and that’s the inciting incident that brings about mysterious strangers who know more than Alan about Alan and it’s hard to keep paying attention. Oh, did I mention that the bad guys work for someone called ‘Mr. Cancer?’ It’s that kind of comic, folks.
It’s not that there isn’t potential in this idea, it’s that the way the story is presented kills any interest. The arc this issue follows has been done so many times and this issue doesn’t do anything original with any of those clichés. Even the one story bright spot of a flashback to Alan’s childhood feels like it’s there just because this sort of plotting requires that, at that point, a flashback to his childhood that suggests something bigger is going on is required. Nothing about this issue feels organic or like it came from outside a plot template.
Well, except for the art. Piotr Kowalski’s art is expressive and visually dynamic. His style has a cartoony, over-the-top element to it, but that complements the more grounded elements of his work. Sometimes, though, his facial expressions don’t quite fit into the context because they’re too big. Mostly, he captures the hopelessness of Alan in the opening pages and, later, takes the clichés of the writing and makes some rather stunning, good-looking pages with exciting action sequences.
I hope “Malignant Man” can escape the set course it’s on, because that’s what drags this first issue down. Take out the specific cancer-based elements and you have dozens of other stories almost beat-for-beat. The hook this series has is good, but even it can’t overcome the general sense of ‘been there, read that’ that this comic inspires.