COMMENTARY TRACK: Pilot Season - Cyblade

Top Cow's Pilot Season initiative consists of one-shots by top industry creators featuring new or under-utilized Top Cow characters. After all issues have hit stands, fans will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite Pilot Season installments at the Pilot Season MySpace page, and the top two vote getters will be awarded their own series. One of last year's winners was "Cyblade," written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and penciled by Rick Mays. In anticipation of the upcoming "Cyblade" series, which sees both Fialkov and Mays reprising their roles on the creative team, CBR News caught up with Fialkov to get a blow-by-blow account of last year's "Pilot Season: Cyblade" from the writer himself.

When Fialkov came onboard for Top Cow's first annual Pilot Season competition, the writer did not expect his contribution would emerge victorious. Instead, he figured Jason Aaron's "Pilot Season: Ripclaw" would take home the big prize. "But, somehow, 'Cyblade' pulled it out and made it to second place," Fialkov told CBR. "The day I got that call from the gang at Top Cow to tell me to get ready to write some more 'Cyblade,' I had mixed emotions. On the one hand, I'd had a bigger story in mind from the beginning, and this was going to be my chance to get to tell that story. On the other hand -- I was going to have to tell that story."

"Pilot Season: Cyblade" was Fialkov's first foray into the world of mainstream superheroes, and the writer told CBR News the learning curve was steep. "But, me being me, my straight superhero book is much more of a science-fiction action adventure book than a punch 'n powers bonanza," Fialkov said. "Traditional mainstream superheroes don't have much appeal to me, I'm much more interested in the sort of dark twisted characters you find in the smaller universe, Top Cow's especially. With Dominique, there was so much bizarre, untapped potential. As a character, she's constantly compared to a certain violet cat suit wearing X-Woman, and while she may have started out in that vein, I think she's evolved into a beast of a different color."

When French born Dominique Thiebault first manifested her innate ability to generate electromagnetic blades, her newfound power put her on the radar of the evil corporation known as Cyberdata. The company provided Dominique with cybernetic implants and a codename to go along with them: Cyblade. Under the control of Cyberdata's brain box, Cyblade unwittingly committed countless atrocities in the corporation's name, until she was shown the light by the founding members of Cyberforce. But the new "Cyblade" series is not a sequel to Marc Silvestri's "Cyberforce," but rather a prequel, set during Cyblade's days with Cyberdata.

With the debut issue of the new series, Fialkov set out to redefine what it means for Dominique to be who she is. "There'd always been this idea of her mind and memories being manipulated, and of her being tricked into working for Cyberdata," he explained. "For me, to explore what it feels like to not only know that your life is a lie, but that once you're awake you may have to go back to sleep, to save your own life and those of the ones you love."

"Pilot Season: Cyblade" Commentary by Joshua Fialkov

Josh Fialkov: So, right off the bat, I love Rick's work. I think he's an amazing storyteller, and his detail work is great. He really manages to nail the feeling that this is all happening in the past, without necessarily dating when it's occurring. We get the feeling of "before" without the pages being filled with big hair and shoulder pads.

I'm wild about Rick's acting here. You can see Dominique's "pizzazz" start to breakdown. It becomes rapidly clear that it's just a front for her nervousness. And the sexiness, and the way she handles it, it's all just an awkward front.

Ah, the match cut. I try and use some more filmatic devices, like the one here, to help give the book a slightly bigger feeling of scope and to make sure the reader is clear that we're moving in time. I love how Rick makes Dom look considerably smaller and meeker, without making her look any younger here. This is also our introduction to Rashell, who really is the second lead of [the new] miniseries.

And here we meet the Director. What I like about a lot of the Cyberdata stuff is it's not entirely clear who knows just how evil they are. I think that's a big part of what makes the concept work. As they're just out there, a known entity in the regular world, the nefarious shit they get up to really is only a part of the business.

Rick's choreography here is just amazing. He manages to do the progressive motion shot, which is a classic device, and make it look entirely natural and modern. I think Rick's passion for manga and anime really come through in pages like this, where he manages to tell the story in some really unique and daring ways that most traditional artists just wouldn't be able to do.

Here's our first "losing control" moment, that's going to become a big part of the new series. This is a girl with huge amounts of power, and yet virtually no idea how to wield it. Even though the Cyberdata-enhanced "ninja" version of her can wield her powers masterfully, not quite enough of that sense memory has come through. Dominique is still like a nuclear reactor, and one of the big issues of the series is her learning to wield that.

This is the quintessential let's show a cutaway of her head to clearly explain how our technology works. I'm king of the hacks, y'see?

In the list of top ten reasons why Rick Mays is awesome, this has got to be number one. THE ROBOT IS WEARING PANTS! PANTS! Who does crazy shit like that? Only Rick.

Okay, now this is a huge tribute to not just Rick but to the kind folks of Guru eFX who colored the book. We now have two different action scenes running concurrently, and I think that the difference between the two, and the storytelling, is so crystal clear that there's just no confusion. This is something that I feel we really got right in this book, so much so that I did it again in my other Top Cow Pilot Season book, "Alibi." I just hope you guys don't figure out how few tricks I have in my bag.

I also love -- to pat myself on the back -- the opposite responses of the two different Dominiques. I think it goes a long way to driving home just how much Cyberdata has destroyed her.

I love the counter-point of Dominique in Rashell's arms being told her life is a lie, and Dominique fighting her way out of the vault. I think you get to see both what's driving her, and what has made her ready and willing to fight -- all leading up to that AMAZING BOOOOOOOM!

And then, finally, the last little twist at the end. We're going to explain this moment later on, but the feeling of, "Wait is she, or isn't she..." is really just such a great moment, and Rick plays it perfectly.

The new series is quite a bit of a departure from the run and gun stuff in the pilot. It's much more emotional and character driven, more like the second half of the pilot, I suppose. I'm immensely proud of the book and I really hope you all take a chance and place your orders for the first and second issues in Previews now and soon, respectively.

"Cyblade" #1 on sale in October from Top Cow and Image Comics.

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