By David F. Walker, Ivan Reis, Eduardo Pansica, and Adriano Lucas
Cyborg is a comic with an excellent writer and an interesting main character that’s had a major struggle finding its way to being actually good. Admittedly it’s still early days and this latest issue is a big step in the right direction, but that doesn’t change the fact that the comic remains fundamentally broken. However, better is better and Cyborg #3 is the most fixed the series has been in a long time. The artwork is more on point and depictive of the situation, Cyborg himself is much more dynamic and defined, and there’s actually a sense for forward motion and direction to the proceedings.
The plot of Cyborg revolves around Vic Stone, the titular Cyborg. Vic’s been a part of the DC Universe for decades, but hasn’t really mattered until the New 52 reboot when he become the Justice League’s very uninteresting token black guy. Thankfully, the DC You initiative has had its finger on the pulse of comic diversity, so giving Cyborg his own comic and getting David F. Walker, the face of black comics at this moment in time, to write it are all good ways to try to improve Cyborg’s pedigree within the DC Universe. Where things fall apart with this so far has been the execution; like it or not David F. Walker’s Cyborg just isn’t a very interesting character and the story surrounding him doesn’t help matters with that. The basic outline of the story is that Cyborg recently underwent a resurrection and restructuring of his bio-tech and is concerned about what this is doing to him. So, he’s returned to Detroit to S.T.A.R. Labs to seek the help of his father and other scientists there to better understand his condition. Also there’s a Cyborg/zombie/alien invasion going on and it’s kind of Cyborg’s fault as part of a connection to an entirely different comic that never gets summarized here at all.
That last bit is the focus of this latest issue as the Cyborg/zombie/aliens (who bear a striking resemblance to the reapers from Mass Effect) have launched a massive attack on Earth and Cyborg is leading a group of survivors through Detroit alongside the Metal Men. Brief side note: there’s exactly no reason for this comic’s alternate cover to feature Green Lantern as he doesn’t appear anywhere in the book and he doesn’t even have that costume anymore. The stuff with Vic fighting the robot invasion is the best the book has ever been. The big problem so far has always been that Cyborg lacked a true sense of definition, just flittering between directionless angst over having amazing superpowers and his seething daddy issues. Giving him the very simple but definable goal of keeping people safe through an alien invasion helps define him and the way he fights the aliens speaks volumes about his character. This is the first time Vic’s actions have been louder than his words in defining his character, even if that definition is just sort of “basic hero” level. Additionally, the Metal Men are an absolute blast this issue sporting a pretty fun visual redesign. The only real problem with them is that Doc Magnus has been far too modernized; he’s a character who’s only really interesting when he’s walking the line between a ‘50s B-movie scientist and a brilliant mind struggling with mental illness.
The artwork by Ivan Reis and Eduardo Pansica is amazing this issue. Reis had been doing the series solo and causing far more problems than he solved, so bringing in Pansica to spruce things up was a good call. The two styles do clash quite a bit and you can always tell where one picks up and the other leaves, but they’re both great at doing alien invasion action within a dilapidated urban setting, so it’s not a big problem. Adriano Lucas also does a very good job of coloring, especially in the scenes of alien battling that take place out in the streets of Detroit. There’s this perpetual haze of debris and smoke that cloaks everything in a freaky atmosphere giving it a kind of ‘Blackhawk Down but with aliens and superheroes’ vibe.
The issue’s biggest problems all stem from the logic and mythos behind the alien invaders. They and a second group of aliens battling them were all apparently established in a previous comic that is never cited or summarized here which is a major problem. You can’t just assume your audience has read all of Cyborg’s other appearances and this more or less demands that you have. The alien freedom fighters are also horribly designed as they look more or less exactly like the alien invaders. There’s also the hint at the end of the issue that some kind of time travel shenanigans is going on, which is terrifying. The final reveal seems to suggest the origins of the aliens will be needlessly complicated, winding its way through the most byzantine of plot labyrinths and most overused sci-fi gimmicks while adding nothing to the story but MORE seething daddy issues. The daddy issues really are the bane of this comic’s existence as they’re like a wet blanket being thrown on the flame of creativity or fun whenever it rears its enjoyable, fiery head.
It speaks volumes about where the Cyborg comic is at this point that what is essentially an alright, boiler-plate alien invasion issue counts as “good”, but that’s just where things are at this point. It’s sort of bizarre that “character development” seems to be the comic’s worst enemy while the shallow action scenes are the highlight but again, that’s just how these things play out sometimes. The real problem though is that the book’s fairly sizable ambition is directed at the completely wrong area. This isn’t building a unique mythos for Cyborg to inhabit and for future writers to inherit, it’s just saddling the character with the most clichéd and basic superhero personality you can find. Ultimately we end up at the same closing mantra that’s punctuated the past two Cyborg comics: maybe next time.