Murder Falcon by Daniel Warren Johnson
Author: Daniel Warren Johnson
Pencils: Daniel Warren Johnson
Inks: Mike Spicer
Publisher: Image Comics/Skybound 2019
Comic Shop Locator: https://www.comicshoplocator.com/
Chronic diseases tend to pull the rug out from under patients. In what might feel like an instant, life changes. Depending on one’s outlook, the future might look more bleak than anything else, and passion can fade away. When it comes to the way we live our lives in the face of a chronic diagnosis such as cancer, one would think it’s best to fall to our loved ones for support.
However, life is never so simple.
Daniel Warren Johnson’s “Murder Falcon” explores the way we cope with disease through the lens of Jake, a young heavy metal guitarist whose life is torn asunder by a diagnosis of brain cancer. The diagnosis leads him to question the value of his life, and the investment of other people in it. We first meet Jake after his diagnosis. He has pushed away his bandmates and his fiancee. His guitar sits in a dark corner of his apartment, destroyed after his final encounter with his bandmates. In what seems like a fever dream of events, he is attacked by an insect-like creature in his own apartment. Suddenly, his guitar repairs itself and summons the spirit of Murder Falcon, a headband-clad anthropomorphic falcon with a bionic arm who is powered by Jake’s music. After the Falcon destroys the creature, he explains to Jake that he is the key to defending the world from a legion of alien creatures. To make matters worse, the aliens feed off that which Jake has refused to confront: fear. As his foes become increasingly stronger, Jake learns that he cannot fight off this horde alone. The series follows Jake as he tries to make amends with each of his bandmates for the sake of the sanctity of their world.
Rather than immediately illustrating Jake’s medical history at the outset, Johnson creatively sprinkles flashbacks of Jake’s experience with cancer throughout the book. This invites the reader to think about how they would act in this situation, while also providing well-timed justifications for why Jake feels the way he feels. We learn that he is not a bitter person, but rather a normal one with a healthy fear of death, something many of us can relate to. Along the way, we see that it is Jake’s passion for music that shows him a better way to live, a better way to face his illness.
Without having experienced chronic illness, it is immensely difficult to imagine what it feels like. “Murder Falcon” attempts to provide perspective while commenting on the power of fear to tear our world apart. At the same time, Johnson makes a point of highlighting the power of one’s passion to strengthen our resolve for the road ahead. For Jake, that passion is music, an artistic medium that relies on expression, bravery, and energy.
While the book’s script is exceptional, the true conduit of its message lies in the stellar artwork that Daniel Warren Johnson is known for. Over-the-top visuals paired with colorist Mike Spicer’s daring choice of a mostly neon color palette cause the energy of hope (and metal) to ooze out of this book. Some splash pages lack dialogue entirely, yet are more telling than any dialogue bubble out there.
As physicians, it is our goal to heal. However, the healing process is not exclusively a scientific one. The human aspect is just as, if not significantly more, important to a patient’s well being. As we attempt to heal others, we must note how they are coping with their situation. We do this by getting to know our patients, taking the time to strike up a conversation rather than merely checking off diagnostic boxes on a chart.
“Murder Falcon” might not look like a medically relevant book, but it can be argued that its message is more important to a physician’s behavior than any textbook on immunology, neuroanatomy, or bacteriology. Look for the spirit in your patients, whether it’s a love for movies, a passion for gardening, or a super-powered bionic falcon powered by heavy metal.
“Murder Falcon” by Daniel Warren Johnson is available from Image comics as a trade paperback at your local comic book store.