Matt Hawkins and Stjepan Sejic’s “Aphrodite IX” #2 is overwritten and generally inelegant. However, if you like hyper realistic fully painted art in your comics, you might enjoy looking at it. With a book like “Aphrodite IX” that may be the point, but I was hoping for more.
“Aphrodite IX” #2 is heavy on the exposition via both internal narration and character dialogue. It’s painful even looking at some of the pages, they’re so text heavy. The writing itself is stilted in places, though not bad. I found at least one error, but it’s the lack of interesting things happening that grates. Though there’s a secret recon and rescue mission, a kidnapping and a dramatic murder, the issue is somehow utterly boring. With mostly talking heads and asides about politics, war and a million technical details about what Aphrodite is, what she’s capable of and what she’s been up to, all the actual action takes a weird backseat. At one point, in the middle of an action scene (Aphrodite having been taken over by outside forces and used as an assassin to kill the queen), Aphrodite’s own narration kicks in at a time when that shouldn’t even be possible. Basically, readers are given a chunk explaining how she won’t remember this as part of her design, but she’s currently not capable of telling readers this information, so it makes no sense and clunky as hell.
The art is surprisingly restrained given some of Aphrodite’s functions (i.e. she’s described as a “slave” repeatedly, twice goes into something called “pheromone mode” and at least once offers do “do anything” to repay a kindness), the writing and plotting lays on Aphrodite as a sex object pretty thick. There’s nothing wrong with the idea, and it makes sense in a way, but it’s inelegant at best and sleazy at worst. It’s not helped by the fact that because of who and what Aphrodite is, she doesn’t feel like she has much agency in her own story.
Sejic’s art is fully painted and sometimes cool looking, but frequently stiff and emotionless. Fans of hyper-realistic work that has a “traced” quality will like it, those that want something a bit more organic and (ironically) natural, will reject it. The storytelling is generally adequate but the book is unnecessarily dark and relies far too heavily on “special effects” like lots of digital fire and blurred backgrounds and foregrounds. It’s not a technique that benefits the book on the whole, but it’s clearly “the look” they’re going for. Sejic is a talented painter, but there are weak panels that don’t work (sometimes anatomy is off, or action is poorly chosen) and as a result it ends up feeling rushed. Often with painted art like this, character expression and acting area weakness, but whether it’s Sejic’s references or just a talent for faces, this is generally a strong aspect of his work in this issue.
I tried “Aphrodite IX” on a whim (having a vague fond memory of the original series — or maybe just a cover? — from my youth) but what I found wasn’t anything I’d come back for a second time. Too bad, as I’ve always liked her weird green hair, and the idea of cool killer androids is never far from my heart (especially when they grow self-awareness and a conscience), but there was really nothing of that in this issue except the green hair.