Michael: Words are an interesting thing, are they not? In one of those “Woah, its crazy how humans work” moments, the assemblage of letters, words, sentences, punctuations and so on is impressive. Memorable moments in pop culture can often be whittled down to a few buzzworthy quotes – especially with our 2015 short attention span. This particular mindset heavily influenced my reading experience of Cyborg 1; and that’s not really a good thing.
Like the rest of the new DC YOU titles, Cyborg 1 follows the events of its “DC Sneak Peek” prologue. Vic Stone gives us a quick exposition of his near-death experiences in The New 52, as well as his death and rebirth in the DC Sneak Peak issue. While working with the Justice League, Cyborg was attacked, literally disarmed and basically killed by a group of aliens calling themselves “Tekbreakers.” Even though he is now easily his father’s greatest creation, Cyborg still finds it difficult to get Silas Stone’s attention. He briefly captures Silas’ attention while demonstrating new powers gained from his Tekbreaker encounter, but that moment comes and goes. Vic gains the sympathy of S.T.A.R. Labs worker Sarah, and then proceeds to get coffee with her and an old high school football rival that gets shoehorned in at the end of the issue. Meanwhile in another galaxy, the “Technosapien” aliens discover Cyborg’s stolen arm and vow to find the rest of this precious technology.
On the surface I very much like Cyborg 1 – it’s a strong jumping-on point for a character that has steadily grown in importance from his introduction 35 years ago. And while superhero comic books dwell and often thrive in the realm of cliché, David F. Walker’s maiden voyage with a DC character veers a little too much in that direction for my taste. While rereading Cyborg 1 I found too many coincidences and repetitious dialogue for my liking. This book is made up of different characters both human and alien, but they read as if they all have the same voice.
Early on in this issue, Cyborg describes himself as being “more machine than man.” For me, that grouping of those four words will immediately and always make me think of Star Wars; I can’t imagine many comic fans would say otherwise. And while a healthy dose of Star Wars reference makes a decent comic book, Cyborg uses this phrase two more times; that kind of needless referential repetition leaves me annoyed. Similarly, Cyborg is conveying how unreliable his father is by saying “I know all the words to that song”; a turn of phrase that is clever, sad and immediately expresses what Vic thinks of his father. A few pages later however we have the “Technosapiens” essentially torturing one of the “Tekbreakers” for information: “Listen. It sings a song to us. It tells us exactly what we need to know.” Later on, the Technosapiens once more talk about the “beautiful song [it] sings.” Again, I like this dialogue – I think it’s very smart and interesting dialogue. But the coincidence of two characters using similar turns of phrase in such high frequency in such a short amount of time is a little too much for me. Maybe I’m being an overly-picky asshat, but damn these two small instances really took me out of the story I’m sorry to say.
I have a few choice words about Cyborg’s Daddy issues as well, but instead I’ll just say this: I hope that that particular relationship becomes a little more thre-dimensional and that Silas Stone stops being a stereotypical Dad-prick; that is all.
Ivan Reis unsurprisingly delivers on the artwork of Cyborg 1. Walker clearly strives towards bringing the humanity back to Victor Stone, which Reis provides accordingly. Cyborg spends the majority of his first issue with a gloomy/angry look on his mug, so it’s a welcome change when we see Vic lend a humble grin Sarah’s way. Walker and Reis provide us with two different tribes of aliens that you’ve already noticed I assumed are called the Tekbreakers and the Technosapiens. So far we don’t have much of a distinction between the two technology-fueled races except that the Tekbreakers are good because they look like humans and the Technosapiens are bad because they’re pretty much The Borg? It’s only the first chapter so I’ll let that slide and wait for further development. My only point of confusion is the true origins of Cyborg’s machinery. If I’m tracking this origin story correctly, Vic became Cyborg when he fused with a Motherbox, which was later revealed to be the Earth-3 villain GRID and now (based on the Sneak Peek) Cyborg’s tech was also allegedly stolen from these Tekbreakers? Continuity!
Hey there Patrick, how did Cyborg 1 fare in your eyes? Am I being a little unfair in my assessment? Did you think that the scene with (what I’m assuming is a monoplegic Veteran) was a little dismissive?
“Hey I wish I had fancy technology like you!” “Shut up, I’m getting coffee with my bro!”
Patrick: Oh yeah, Vic certainly doesn’t come off like a good dude in that scene. Not only does he blow off the vet, he sorta abandons Sarah who, up until moments ago seemed like the only person who actually gave a shit about him. Vic is actually pretty pissy throughout this issue, and while some of his choices are recognizable as human, they don’t really read as heroic. For being a member of the Justice League, he’s an awfully inactive player in the drama of his own life. Michael already went through and recapped the issue, but I think we can simplify the incident of this story even further: Cyborg is disappointed when his father doesn’t pay attention to him. But, like, Cyborg doesn’t do anything that would warrant paying attention to. Instead of populating these pages with drama or action, Walker and Reis have dumped a lot of exposition and techno-babble – it’s no wonder Silas is bored.
The closest thing that this issue gets to active storytelling is when Cyborg is replaying video of what’s happened to him. Reis does his best to inject some drama into that moment by having the hologram cut to Shazam reacting to what’s happen in the battle.
At the risk of doing a little Monday Morning Quarterbacking, why don’t we see Cyborg in action in real time? Vic talks about being ignored when all he wants is to be acknowledged, but you can’t really fault anyone for ignoring a person that’s not doing anything. And I’m not clamoring for more punch-em-ups — I’d be totally content to have a totally peaceful issue — but I need to see Vic demonstrating something about his character for other people to ignore. What is it that we’re supposed to be paying attention to anyway? That he almost died three times?
That’s another thing: what’s up with Vic insisting that he died this third time? And what’s more: what does that even mean in this universe? Vic makes a joke about having seen his dead mother’s spirit, but then blows the whole thing off by petulantly saying “Trust me, I know what happened to me.” The script is so insistent on the idea that Victor actually died this time, and I just can’t determine what the significance there is supposed to be. Cyborg is not a spiritual character (despite personally knowing some literal gods), and this brush with death doesn’t seem to have given him new drive to make the most of life or anything like that. It’s just a weird technicality that Cyborg doesn’t want to let up on, but also doesn’t have any perspective on.
Instead, he’s just moping around because daddy isn’t paying enough attention to him. Walker lays it on so think, I think he may even be encouraging us to be annoyed with the protagonist. Sarah doesn’t see Vic creep into her office because he’s trying out his new Stealth Mode — meaning that Vic’s opting to be invisible. Elias isn’t the only one keeping people at arms’ length. Plus, when Cyborg enters Sarah’s office, we get a glimpse at a picture frame on her desk.
Human interaction is a two-way street. Whoever is in that picture is important to Sarah, and instead of talking about her brother or boyfriend or whoever that is, she and Cyborg just rehash the same thing that’s been annoying him all issue. Come on, Vic, ask about her!
Which leads me back to the idea that Cyborg just isn’t a particularly good guy. He’s only looking for the kind of recognition that he doesn’t have to put in any of the social work for. Talking to his dad is going to require talking to his dad, but seeing someone from high school, that’s only going to require physically feats he already accomplished.
Maybe that makes him hard to route for. I guess we’ll find out when this conflict on the other side of the galaxy inevitably intersects with this humdrum drama on Earth. That’s sort of how I feel about this whole issue: it’s hard to tell if the creators are being insightful or careless in making Vic as self-centered as he is.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?