Terminal Hero is the new comic from Pete Milligan, a writer I’ve enjoyed since his early 2000AD work, though to things like the still astonishing Skin, and Enigma, one of the best superhero books you’ll ever read. For much of the last decade or so Milligan has been writing some distinctly average to awful superhero comics to, I assume, pay about the bills. Milligan has on the whole spent the decade treading water so it’s refreshing to see such a massive return to form with the first issue of this new series.
The synopsis of Terminal Hero sounds unlikely for a mainstream comic.
Rory Fletcher is a good man. The problem is, he’s dying of an inoperable brain tumor. And then his best friend introduces him to the mysterious Treatment Q. This strange and forbidden therapy might just save Rory’s life. But its nightmarish side effects could make him question just how good he really is, and just how much he really does want to live.
A comic about a man fighting cancer has been done with Harvey Pekar’s Our Cancer Year, but this isn’t that type of comic. This is pitching a story about cancer and a young man trying to come to terms with death to a mainstream audience brought up with superheroes and not used to the sort of comic that doesn’t feature superpowers. It’s in this context that Milligan manages to tell a story which is ostensibly about a man who takes a last chance for life.
The lead character Rory is a good man. Having a total bastard getting cancer and die would be dramatically rubbish but we root for Rory because he’s decent, a doctor and wants to make people better but his body dealt him a bad deal by developing a tumour and that’s the horror of cancer as it affects anyone. All Milligan’s character building plays off when the weird stuff starts happening and Rory starts to get to the bottom of what exactly is going on.
Terminal Hero is clearly a highly personal story for Milligan and it’s good to see him tackle a subject like cancer and present it to an audience normally used to escapism. Having had a scare myself around a decade ago I can identify with Rory immensely and the emotions he goes through in this first issue, which is a perfect set up for what looks to be an interesting return to form for Milligan.