The Dead Cell Review

Travel into the minds of mentally deranged patients kept alive despite having no real functionality in the new graphic novel from Arcana Studio, The Dead Cell.

The Dead Cell

Meet Dr. Monica McCoy.  She’s a new doctor at Breckinridge State Hospital.  McCoy is part of a super secret Dream Research Program, a program that studies what comatose mentally handicapped patients are thinking and seeing.  It’s a sad place and somewhere any halfway decent doctor would question as being ethical.  Dr. McCoy has four specific patients she’s working with and each have a very different perception of the world they have created for themselves.  Thomas is a patient who is hindered by fear.  Frankie is given a phenomenal talent that he uses to imprison himself.  Paul is willing to accept the darkest parts of his own psyche in order to have a greater understanding.  Frankie uses a greater power and ideal to defeat the fear that has infected him and everyone around him.  However, does Monica have a secret of her own?  How does power and fear affect her?

This is a very heady story.  John Barker explores power and fear in an interesting way.  In many ways, while reading this, I felt like I was watching a Stanley Kubrick film.  You can feel elements of each of the patients’ stories.  You are just as confused and scared as they are.  You constantly question yourself about the reality of what you are seeing.  Is this part of their story or is this part of the world they’ve built for themselves?  The story also ends with a really nice twist that I don’t want to give away.  I will say that just when things almost seem to make no sense, it all comes back to making perfect sense on the last page.

Simmons’ art is pretty good for the story.  There is a dream like quality to it.  You easily move from situations that look normal and happy before descending into a nightmare.  Visually, you get the sense that either the patients’ real worlds were actually very good before their minds break and they descend into madness and what you see at the end of each of their stories is how they perceive the world around them.  Even if everything does exist in the dream world, you can easily believe that the illness each of these patients suffer from will not allow them to be happy.

Ultimately, if I had one critique, it would be the length of the graphic novel.  Overall, this is an easy read, but just as I wanted to know more about these patients and how they got to what we see their fates are, their story ends and a new patient gets the focus.  I would love to see more of each patient’s world and get an opportunity to see their dream worlds degrade more slowly.  It would keep us as readers more on edge and it would have given us an opportunity to learn even more about Monica.  Admittedly, this critique comes from how much of a stickler I can be with characterization.  These are solid characters, but I look at it thinking that more could have really put this book over the top.  I don’t think we needed more characters, just more time with the ones we did see.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this book.  There are dark and light elements that are not only interesting, but entertaining.  The overall idea and plot is genuinely unique.  I know I could never have come up with this story (at least on purpose).  Art and story work together to give the reader some very cool concepts.


Pros Cons
Despite the themes explored this is an easy read. Art and story go hand in hand. A bit short. I would have liked a few more pages for each character involved.


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