It’s a race against time as Jack struggles to understand the mechanism of a new, aggressive type of cancer. Can he figure it out before it kills millions? Find out in The Clock #1 from Top Cow Productions!
Writer: Matt Hawkins
Artist: Colleen Doran
Colorist: Bryan Valenza
Letterer: Troy Peteri
Editor: Elena Salcedo
Publisher: Top Cow Productions
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: January 8, 2020
Previously in The Clock: People are dying of particularly aggressive cancers, and the cause is unclear. The outbreak is almost viral in nature, but some people may be resistant. It’s a race against time – will there be a cancer pandemic, or sheer panic across the world?
STORY SUMMARY AND CRITIQUE
The Clock #1 opens quietly enough with a convoy of trucks driving through Nigeria. It goes past a tent city – perhaps a refugee camp, and one of the men traveling with the convoy (Jack) makes a comment that he will never get used to seeing so much suffering. He gets into a discussion with the man (Joe, his father and the ambassador) next to him about fairness vs. the human capacity for survival. This could be going any number of predictable ways, but instead it turns out that this group of people seems to have enhanced immunity to some disease. It’s a powerful way to start a medical thriller, and it is intriguing.
We are drawn into the story bit by bit. Joe pulled some strings to get Jack here. Under the guise of bringing in food and medical care, they are (unethically) taking tissue samples from people. The crisis – a new viral cancer which is killing people in droves. Hawkins has done his research (and writes about it at the end of the book). There is a degree of plausibility here which satisfies me immensely.
Life in the camp has some good moments of celebration and just plain living, but also moments of terror. Rebels attack the camp and Jack finds himself armed and unable to shoot. A child from the camp takes the gun from his unresisting hands and shoots at the rebels like an expert, a reminder to us of the reality of child soldiers. Together, they save the camp and leave on good terms. That’s when the phone call comes.
Jack’s wife, Evee, was also a cancer researcher – and now she has succumbed to this aggressive cancer. Jack works harder than ever, but also must raise his young daughter, Kimmie. Finally, he gets to testify before a Senate committee, and we learn the details. This new cancer spreads rapidly within the body, resists chemotherapy and other treatment and can kill within months. It is not contagious in and of itself, but it seems that the way it works is that it affects people who have a significant risk for developing cancer at some point in their lifetime, and instead they get it – and die from it – now.
More conflict – is this something to make public, or can it be hidden longer in order to prevent a panic? These are real world, difficult decisions to which there is no simple correct answer. I love it when a book is thoughtful and challenging. But to make this even more of a thriller, as Jack is leaving, a stranger bumps into him and drops an anonymous note.
The art in The Clock #1 is simply gorgeous. First of all, there is the sheer range of human emotion covered. We follow Jack through his focus on work, the terror of the nighttime rebel attack, and to his utter grief at the loss of his wife. There’s the resolute chill of the child who takes Jack’s gun in camp to fire on the rebels. There’s the fleeting joy of the people in camp during the happy moments they have. This brings us deeper into the story, shows us that around the world, people are people, and it forges connections.
There are a couple really moving large spreads that I really like because of the way they give us a top-down view that puts things into perspective. The first is the camp in Nigeria which is full of detail. We see the contrast between the green of the distant hills, and the well-trodden brown within the camp. There is a wide variety of tents, many of them covered in patches. And in this setting, people go about their day-to-day lives as best they can. Several pages later, it is Evee’s funeral. While it starts out very intimate and personal, as funerals are, it ends with Jack’s daughter Kimmie observing that her mother won’t be lonely in death. This time, when the eye draws back, we see how very many fresh graves there are; how many mourners are here today. (It does make one wonder how the general public hasn’t caught on to the increase in severe cancer in this day and age where conspiracies pop up around every corner, but that’s a small critique.)
BOTTOM LINE: A MEDICAL THRILLER WITH TEETH
The Clock #1 is a gripping story that is well thought out and carefully written. I appreciate the grounding in science, and the message so far resonates with our current world.
The Clock #1
Science, ethics, and cancer combine in an explosive new sci-fi thriller!