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Into the back issue box #10

by  in Comic News Comment

Today’s question is: why does Marc Silvestri hate comic book fans?

(You know the drill by now: ground rules for these posts are here.)

Cyberforce #1 by Marc Silvestri, Eric Silvestri, and Scott Williams.  Published by Image, November 1993.


Some people operate under the assumption that I buy these comics in the quarter bin.  I don’t.  This one, for instance, cost me FIVE dollars, which is about the upper limit of cost I am willing to shell out for this exercise.  How in the hell is this thing still worth five dollars?

Take one look at that cover and you know that this book is from the bad old days of Image, when Jim Lee, Marc Silvestri, Todd MacFarlane, Erik Larsen, and some other guys (wasn’t Valentino there at the inception?) decided that if people bought Marvel comics because they were drawing them, nobody would notice if they wrote the comics, too!  Then, of course, they realized that writing a comic can be just as difficult as drawing one, so they needed people who could, you know, actually write.  Todd MacFarlane threw all his money at people like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman (and I guess Grant Morrison, too, although I never read his Spawn issue), while Marc Silvestri took the cheap route, called up his brother, who might have been in landscaping or insurance sales, and said, “How’d you like to script a comic book, bro?”  Thus the plotting/scripting/drawing Team Silvestri Supreme was born!

I hesitate to even delve into this book.  It’s a 1993 Image book!  What do you think it’s like?  It’s somewhat nice-looking, with hot babes with short hair and manly men with long hair (what was up with that trend back then, anyway – chicks with short hair and dudes with long hair?), lots of hair curling significantly over the eyes and faces of the characters, lots of people with cybernetics and claws, and big guns and big boobs!  What more could you want from a comic?

Well, let’s start with a coherent story.  Would that be too much to ask?  Say you’re perusing the comic book racks in autumn 1993.  You’ve never bought a comic before, but this one grabs your eye, because it’s so damned stylish.  You purchase it (peruse it beforehand? NEVER!) and get home, hoping to read … well, you’re not exactly sure what, but there are hot babes on the cover!  So you read the first page, and this is what you see:

                                


Oh dear.  This does not bode well.  Some figure all in shadows with a really, really, really long green ponytail shows up and slashes our figure (whom he calls “Robert”) to shreds – but on the next page, we find out it’s just a dream!  The dreamer is Robert Bearclaw, aka Ripclaw, who is, the text helpfully tells us, a “cybernetically-enhanced Native American mutant.”  Wow – talk about a minority group!  Okay, you’re willing to ignore the ridiculously dramatic narration on the first page.  It was just a dream.

                      


I’m with you, brother.  This is how I felt after reading just two pages of this comic.  But we must soldier on!

Then we move on to a “private estate somewhere in Westchester, New York.”  A young girl is running very fast through the forest.  She has red hair, white skin, and a green lightning bolt running from her forehead through her right eye.  Why?  Because it’s a comic book!  In expository fashion, she thinks about her life so far, and how her memory was ruined by “scumbags” at a place called Cyberdata, who put into her a “brain-box” and tried to turn her into a “high-speed killer zombie.”  Yikes, that ain’t good.  “Cyberforce” rescued her, and now she’s trying to join them by … running really fast, apparently.  It’s actually a lot of information for one page, except we never learn anything else about Cyberdata or even much about Cyberforce itself.  But it’s a decent try at exposition, Silvestris!  Suddenly, the girl is accosted by some monstrously huge robots, but she manages to dodge them and is feeling pretty good about herself.  That is, until Ripclaw shows up.  Robert is a bit peeved at “Velocity,” as he calls the girl, and says she needs a “worthy opponent, a creature of flesh and blood, fueled by desire, driven by need, trained to hunt and kill.”  She doesn’t say that it sounds like her last boyfriend, but she’s still glib about it, which does not please Ripclaw.  So he suggests playing a game called “Deer Meat,” in which, well, I’ll let Ripclaw explain:

                    


You know, sometimes the subliminal sexuality in comics just leaps right out at you, doesn’t it?  Back at Cyberforce’s underground headquarters, the commander (whose name, we learn a few pages later, is Heatwave) asks a young lady, named Cyblade, what’s going on in the training exercise.  Cyblade is wearing tight spandex pants, what looks like a Members Only jacket with the sleeves pushed up, and something underneath that exposes her midriff.  Why she is leaning on the console sticking her fine curvy ass out is something I’ll let Frederic Wertham worry about.  She tells Heatwave that Velocity was doing fine until Ripclaw showed up.  She couldn’t tell what they were saying to each other, but suddenly Velocity took off.  She thinks to herself that if Ripclaw hurts Velocity, he’ll have to answer to her.  Oh, the drama!

        


Ripclaw, of course, easily tracks down Velocity, and is about to (presumably) tear her some new orifices when Heatwave blasts him from behind.  Hey, where’d he come from????  Ripclaw tells him that Velocity is “just a girl” (no need for that, Ripclaw!) and that she doesn’t understand that Cyberforce “deal[s] in death.”  He snaps at Heatwave, telling them they should leave him alone.  More drama!

                   


Then the scene shifts again, to a bar in Queens.  A woman sits at the bar and is hit on by some random drunk.  She doesn’t think this is a good idea, and slams his face into the bar.  Naturally, she’s another member of the team, and when someone else approaches her, she (her name’s Ballistic) lashes out with her cybernetic fist, only to be stopped by another cybernetic fist belonging to Stryker, who not only has the metal fist, but metal on his face as well, and, of course, a bitchin’ ponytail.  It turns out Ballistic is Velocity’s sister (and Velocity’s real name is Carin), and she needs help, but Ballistic isn’t interested in giving it to her.  Like a good ‘roided-up comic book character, instead of just leaving, she punches Stryker and tells him to get the hell out of there.  It’s here that we see that Stryker has three right arms, all cybernetic.  Isn’t that kind of overkill?  He takes umbrage at this and, like a good ‘roided-up comic book character, throws her into the mirror behind the bar.  Oh, it’s on, bitch!

                 


Back at the HQ, Velocity is upside down in some kind of containment tank – it’s a lot like the one Luke Skywalker was in at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back.  “Doc” is healing her, with the help of a young boy named Timmie (on an earlier page, there’s another young boy helping out named Chip – where’s Child Protective Services when you need them????), who is monitoring her progress.  There’s also, incongruously, an adorable cat tucked away in the corner of the panel.  Doc is asking yet another member of the team, Impact, what’s the big deal with Ripclaw.  He wants to talk to Ripclaw and Stryker, which leads us back to Queens, and what the Silvestris think New Yorkers talk like:

           


Ballistic and Stryker are in the middle of a good old-fashioned donnybrook, with Stryker trying to talk to Ballistic about her horrible father, and Ballistic throwing, well, plastic straws at him:

                  


The best thing is that Stryker actually treats them as a threat!  He gets on top of her, but she kicks in the family jewels and takes off.  Good job, Ballistic!  The scene shifts again, back to Ripclaw’s nightmares.  He is being chased by two dark figures now, and when they bring him down, he sees them and recognizes them: Warblade and Misery, the man with the long green ponytail, and a woman with flamboyant red hair.  He wakes shouting “They’re still alive!”  He wakes up the rest of the team, but by the time they get to their room, he’s gone.  Cyblade tells Heatwave, “There was one word he kept repeating … Misery.  You don’t think …” to which Heatwave replies, “I don’t see how.  But if it is, it’s worse than I thought.”  You know what’s coming – to be continued …  But wait: how the hell does Cyblade know he’s repeating Misery?  They never actually have contact with each other in the book!  Logic, you want logic?  In an early 1990s Image book?  For shame!

                                  


On the one hand, this is a horrible mess.  Ripclaw.  Velocity.  Heatwave.  Cyblade.  Ballistic.  Stryker.  Impact.  Doc.  Timmie.  Warblade.  Misery.  These are the best names Silvestri (and I suppose Jim Lee had a hand in the proceedings) could come up with?  The dialogue is painful, the art is, unfortunately, hideous (and I often like Silvestri), and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense taken as a single issue.  Speaking of the art, would it kill comic book artists to learn how to draw feet?  I know this is a problem with many of them, and it’s just weird.  Let’s have a look at a gallery of feet from this issue:

                            


                   


 


 

     


 


But anyway, getting back to the issue, it’s a prologue issue to a big story called “Killer Instinct” – at least that’s what it says on the inside front cover.  On the back it says it’s continued in WildC.A.T.s #6, but it also appears from the list of books involved in the crossover that it began in WildC.A.T.s #5.  So which is it?  By the way, that’s a good way to get people interested in your new title – make the first issue either the first or second part of a crossover (your first three issues, actually).  Thank God the big companies – like, I don’t know, Marvel – didn’t pick up on this trend.

                


So there’s not a lot to recommend this issue, especially if this was your first comic book.  What you learn about comics from this issue is that all the women have big boobs, tiny waists, and great asses, all the men have great pecs, six-pack abs, and better hair than the women, and a lot of people have really long claws on their hands.  You also learn that mousse can do wonders for your ‘do, and that super-people solve every single problem by fighting.  Can’t decide on Mexican or Italian for dinner?  Punch it out.  Were the 1992 Toronto Blue Jays a better team than the 1993 variety?  It’s go time!  Should you pull your hair into a ponytail, like Ripclaw, or let it flow free, like Impact?  Let’s take it outside!  Remember, kids – punching a problem makes it go away!

It does, however, have a kind of sleazy charm.  Not enough to recommend it, of course, but if you’re a long-time comic book reader and not a first-time one, it captures the zeitgeist of the early- to mid-1990s so very well, and should stand as a cautionary tale against ever going back there.  Of course, with the revamp of Onslaught, it appears people in the highest circles of comic book power aren’t heeding that cautionary tale, but it remains, nevertheless.  In the letters page, someone writes: “Joe Quesada is one of my favorite artists.  Is there any way he could do some work for you?”  The answer is: “You can see Joe Quesada’s work in DEATHMATE: EPILOGUE, inked by our own Scott Williams, on sale this month!”  I remember that artist Quesada.  I wonder what ever happened to him …

There’s also a funny full-page letter to the readers in the back of the book.  It’s so excellent I thought I’d scan it instead of quoting it:

                       


Too bad the readers didn’t complain about the actual content of the books, just the gimmick covers!  Of course, an ad for the trade paperback of the Cyberforce mini-series on the back cover announces that it comes with a “holo-foil cover,” so I guess Image didn’t care that much about the fans!

Sigh.  I’m sure Marc Silvestri can take the ripping that this book so justly deserves.  He’s more famous and richer than I’ll ever be, and probably has groupies lined up out the door.  But this is just a ridiculous comic book.  If this were your first one, you would have a very low opinion of comics indeed.  It’s not that it’s goofy, it’s that it’s so joylessly goofy.  The Silvestris honestly thought they were doing solid serious work.  And that’s the tragedy of Cyberforce #1.

Some of you people have the entire crossover buried in your long boxes, I know you do!  What the hell happens?  And is this Misery the same one from Sleeper (I assume so, but don’t know for sure)?  That would be cool.