guest review by Chuyue Zhou, student in the “Comics Narratives: Illness, Disability, & Recovery” course, Art Therapy Program, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
A “big C” diagnosis can be troubling and devastating due to the possibility of a shortened life, excruciating pain, and a significant drop in quality of life. The graphic novel RICK Two shines light on the subject by presenting “a collage portrait of one man and his tumor, created by everyone affected by the diagnosis.”
To everyone who has lost someone to the battle against cancer, the pain does not only reside in witnessing his or her health decline, but in sitting by his or her bedside as words fail to bring comfort. RICK Two takes on this subject with a dark sense of humor and comically illustrates the complicated emotions and helplessness.
Instead of diving headfirst into the pain of dealing with the disease, Rick Two opens up with a scene of strenuous waiting in the reception area. The emotional burden and the ambivalence of how to converse on the subject with the patient they are waiting to see is delivered through a depiction of people coming and leaving the waiting area. The scene not only demonstrates the seemingly never-ending wait but also the fact that the disease has taken over so many people’s lives.
The second part of the comic depicts the conversation about how to deliver the devastating news, portrayed through an imaginary battle with seagulls. Through this illustration, RICK Two reflects the emotional turmoil and amount of courage it takes for the patient to confront friends and loved ones with the news. The imagined scenario of seagulls shooting down from above and gauging out his eye allows readers to visually experience the internal struggle the cancer patient goes through before finally picking up that phone.
RICK Two speaks not only of the pain and struggle, but also of memories of love and reminiscence. It is a collage of people’s reactions of hearing the news, accepting the reality, looking back at the relationship they had with the patient, and learning how to say goodbye. It speaks from both the perspective of the patient and the loved ones, depicting the pain of both parties and sharing the unspoken words.