Posted by Don MacPherson on October 20th, 2016
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1
“Part One: Going Underground”
Writers: Gerard Way & Jon Rivera
Artists: Michael Avon Oeming
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Clem Robins
Writer/Artist: Tom Scioli
Cover artists: Oeming (regular)/Matt Wagner and Brennan Wagner, & Bill Sienkiewicz (variants)
Editor: Molly Mahan
Publisher: DC Comics/Young Animal imprint
Price: $3.99 US
Of the three Young Animal titles to be released thus far, this stood out as my favorite thus far. While it’s still weird and mature, it’s probably also the most grounded and relatable of all of Gerard Way-led new titles. The fact that it’s far more rooted in the DC super-hero universe, with its inclusion of oddball characters and concepts, probably doesn’t hurt either, given my lifelong affinity for DC properties. Despite the obscurity of the characters here, Way and co-writer Jon Rivera don’t offer up a lot of exposition about their back stories, but the script is nevertheless accessible. One is able to piece together the relevant character bits pretty well from information that woven organically into the dialogue. Furthermore, there’s an air of mystery that’s fostered by the writers’ decision not to explain every little detail, not to offer deep background on the players in this drama. Ultimately, what drew me in was the character study of Cave Carson himself – not the mystery of his cybernetic eye, not the question of what the corporate EBX is plotting, but rather his sense of loss. That relatability really anchors a truly weird and even playful story.
Going Underground: Cave Carson’s wife Eileen has died, and he finds himself back in the real world, far from his underground, geological adventures and wonders, trying to deal with the notion of life without his compass. At some point, Cave ended up getting a cybernetic eye, a replacement he apparently didn’t choose, but it’s helping him see the world around him as it really is, giving him pause to question things he once took for granted. He turns to a couple of old friends for help and advice, and it seems that intrigue and more adventure await him just around the corner.
I haven’t sampled Michael Avon Oeming’s art in a long time, but his style is one I’ve always enjoyed. It’s rooted in a Bruce Timm influence, but he distinguishes his work with other influences and approaches. His use of shadow is evocative of Mike Mignola’s art as well. Here, I was put in mind of Mike Allred’s style, likely due to the surreal and oddball nature of the plot and characters. Oeming’s simple style is slightly more exaggerated than usual, especially when Cave’s cybernetic eye kicks into gear, and I really enjoyed that cartoony look mixed with the tension of those moments.
I also appreciated the classic coloring effects Nick Filardi incorporates into the visuals, not only as a throwback to a simpler time in comics production, but to signal more surreal and significant elements in the story. I really only had one issue with the art in this comic, and that was Cave’s seeming ability to grow a full beard overnight. In a key scene, he’s having a talk with his buddy and notes he has an appointment with his employer the next day. In the first scene, he has a scruff, and in the next, set the following morning, a full beard. It was a minor distraction, but a distraction all the same.
Earlier, I mentioned how fascinating I found the titular character’s sense of loss to be, but I wasn’t only talking about his grief over the death of his wife. One can sense he also feels he’s losing his daughter, who’s growing up and making decisions with which he doesn’t necessarily agree. He’s also lost his sense of purpose. The writers craft an atmosphere in which is feels as though Carson doesn’t know what he’ll do next. Furthermore, there’s a hint that he feels he’s lost control over his geological adventures and expertise, as it appears they’re all the registered property of a corporation that treats him as a mascot rather than a vital component of the operation. That latter aspect of the story is also quite relatable, as anyone who’s not self-employed can likely attest from some point in his or her professional life.
Another intriguing character-driven element of the comic comes in the form of Cave’s daughter. The college-age sidekick is trying to carve out a typical life for herself in the wake of not only her mother’s death but her father’s epic, weird adventures. Her background is atypical, so she’s scrambling for something typical now. Unfortunately, it would seem she’s settling for something less than ideal in the process.
I was surprised at how much DC history and continuity play a role in this new Cave Carson comic. The appearance of Doc Magnus and the Metal Men took me by surprise, and even moreso when I realized it was the New 52 incarnations of those characters. And the street-level vigilante who turns up at the end of the story was a shocker as well. For a longtime DC reader, I welcomed these elements, but I also appreciated just how random they seem to be. There’s no natural connection between Cave Carson and these other DC heroes, so their inclusion struck me more as a celebration of the eclectic and diverse array of concepts the writers have to draw upon for this unconventional story.
Super Powers: Even more than the main story, this tribute to the Jack Kirby-drawn, toy-tie-in comics of the 1980s is a bizarre and beautiful to the wonder of DC’s stable of characters and the mature, limitless potential of comics storytelling. Kirby devotee Tom Scioli captures the camp, imagination and bombastic qualities of the King’s style and storytelling here perfectly, but he does so with a subcultural, indie flair that makes for an homage that’s nevertheless unique.
Scioli delivers an alt-origin for the Wonder Twins that’s completely unlike what we’ve seen before. Imagine if J.R.R. Tolkein had created Zan and Jayna. The backup feature, after some time on the alien planet Exxor, shifts suddenly to Gotham City in a piece that celebrates the goofy look of the Super Powers toy line. He offers a traditional take on Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon as well as a totalitarian interpretation of the Joker. It’s weird to watch as Scioli lurches forward as he guides us through this stream-of-consciousness incarnation of the DC Universe.
The art, like most Scioli efforts, is heavily influenced by Kirby, and the artist does a great job of capturing the late legend’s style. The duller colors and occasionally stiff figures also put me in mind of the work of Melinda Gebbie, specifically her art from Alan Moore’s Lost Girls. Perhaps I made the connection in part from both projects use of characters from children’s fiction for new, odd stories meant for an adult audience.
Overall, I found this debut issue of Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye to be a fun romp with just enough intelligence and maturity behind it to signal the potential for much more than the adventures of wondrous, weird characters. 8/10
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