By David F. Walker, Andy Owens, and Adriano Lucas
From the start, David Walker’s Cyborg run has been marred by an inability or unwillingness to confront how little there actually is TO the character of Cyborg. He’s a lot like most of the Teen Titans; a fun hero who was always more enjoyable as part of the larger group than a solo hero. Even within the Titans, Cyborg has been sort of the odd man out when it comes to mythology. Starfire has her alien heritage, Raven is tied to Trigon, Beast Boy has history with the Doom Patrol, but Cyborg has always just been along for the ride. He doesn’t have any big bad guys who threatened the team or larger corners of the DC Universe he was tied to, not to mention he’s the character to have gone through the most bizarre rejiggerings. This has all left Cyborg, as a character, unmoored and without a sense of grounding through set locations or characters. Unfortunately, rather than try to forge ahead and create a new mythos for Cyborg, the series has remained stranded in a quagmire of New 52 elements and storylines that are either cripplingly generic or incredibly derivative.
Cyborg seems to exist as a comic solely to embody the flaws of this era that Black Knight wasn’t already embodying. The biggest problem is the lack of structure and grounding; it plagued the first arc and has barreled on at full speed into this new one. This latest arc sees Earth picking up the pieces from the Terminator/Cybermen/Borg /Reaper knock-off invasion, with the government and the military now looking to take over S.T.A.R. Labs for the crime of saving the world. Yes, the trope of governments mistrusting super people is as old as the hills, but this just feels egregious and forced, again getting back to the issue of structure. Much like Black Knight, Cyborg doesn’t have a genre of its own, existing as a hodgepodge of sci-fi elements scaffolded over the most simplistic superhero structure available. S.T.A.R. Labs acts as Bat-Cave and Fortress of Solitude only without the sense of geography and affinity those areas have or even a basic understanding of the wonders within; it’s basically just a building to us. The supporting cast runs the full gambit of annoying to bland, such as Cyborg’s incredibly tedious father or the perpetually foreshadowed T.O. Morrow, and there’s nothing about the story or framing to imply there’s anything more to this narrative than “strong guy punch bad guy make fall down.” As such, suddenly trying to shift gears and throw in this whole government and public mistrust angle comes off as being completely out of left field and has no purchase on which to ground. This isn’t a sci-fi allegory like the X-Men and it’s not a story about the broader human condition like Superman; it’s a story about an underdeveloped main character hitting things when he isn’t busy being angsty over how terrible it is to be able to access the Internet with his mind.
Not that the government plot would’ve gelled better if the series was already more inclined toward that kind of storytelling. The government and military folks are just generically evil fear-mongers given exactly zero nuance or characterization. Most of the comic isn’t even really about that, but rather focuses on Cyborg relaying his current situation to the hologram ghost of his mom. Firstly, hologram mom plays a lot like a Superman rip-off, but even beyond that they do exactly nothing with the concept. She just shows up so that Cyborg can have someone to yammer on at while he explains the last few years of his continuity to any new readers who were hoping for a better experience now that the book’s second arc was starting up. The same honestly goes for the military/government stuff as most of the book is them touring S.T.A.R. Labs (though we still have no idea of the layout or what’s actually IN the building) while Cyborg’s dad explains what happened during the invasion.
The artwork is bad. It’s been on a downward slope since Ivan Reis left, but this week it’s finally come careening down into the bad category, mainly in terms of people’s facial expressions. The military and government goons especially look really bizarre with massively exaggerated faces and hilarious mouth expressions that look wholly unnatural. Also, for whatever reason the lead political guy looks like Dick Cheney, your guess is as good as mine on that one. Cyborg’s design is still incredibly weird between the fingerless gloves, the moose knuckle feet, and the curiously placed glowing blue disc above his crotch. There are a couple of big splash pages, murals of Cyborg’s past, that work well but they’re hardly enough to save the comic. The coloring is at least solid, especially in the translucent effects used to render hologram mom. Unlike most holograms her clothing is colored but also see-through and while that normally ends up blending too much into the background, here it works very well.
Cyborg is seven issues deep into its run and there’s no indication anything about this series will stand the test of time. It does nothing to forge Cyborg’s mythos as a solo character, he has no rogues gallery, no interesting headquarters, no supporting cast of fellow heroes or local officials. The handful of elements he does have are ripped off wholesale from the Superman mythos and the actual storylines at play wouldn’t pass mustard in a Deathlok revival comic. It just doesn’t feel like anyone writing this had a plan for Cyborg. There’s no spark of imagination or energy for the material, just a dull sense of “well, it’s a living” as the book continues to check off all the key components of the complete hack’s guide to comic writing.