There was a boomlet for a moment there in graphic novels about dealing with cancer. The primitively drawn Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person was in the traditional black-and-white autobiographical comic vein, while Mom’s Cancer, formerly a webcomic, won the first ever Digital Comic Eisner Award. That subject isn’t a surprising choice — it’s innately dramatic, something many people can relate to (if they haven’t had a scare themselves, a relative likely has), and a nicely meaty topic to make everything seem more meaningful.
Cancer Vixen isn’t like either, and it’s better than both. It’s in comic format, but it’s more like a combination women’s novel and lifestyle book, or maybe what would result if one of the Sex in the City girls wrote a graphic novel. It’s brightly colored with plenty of exaggerations, whether in tone or image, to make points. Although it handles a serious issue, overall, it’s fun. Marisa Acocella Marchetto has an infectious tone that makes reading her book feel like a well-liquored brunch together.
In terms of story, big city reporting cartoonist Marchetto discovers a lump in her breast three weeks before her wedding. She worries about reactions from her fiance and her parents, flashing back to the woman she was, pre-2001, in the face of who she’s going to have to be. Working for outlets like the New Yorker and the New York Times in an image-obsessed city seemed important (and it’s awfully enjoyable to read about), but of course, a brush with death puts everything into different perspective.
Her work makes her a visual thinker, resulting in great use of symbolism, like seeing cancer cells as Mr. Yucks or the giant space vacuum to get across the sucking feeling when she got her diagnosis or a personal favorite, the “sour grapevine” full of catty comments. Marchetto also includes examples of her previously published cartoons to give a feel for her less personal work style.
There’s plenty of advice for those experiencing any medical issue or life crisis, and it’s also got great tips for anyone wondering about the life of a freelance cartoonist. It’s an informative, entertaining book about a major life-changing event. Visit the author’s website for more information.