Rearranging the Deck Chairs: DC Rebirth Titles, Week Twelve!
Cyborg: Rebirth ("The Imitation of Life") by John Semper Jr. (writer), Paul Pelletier (penciller), Sandra Hope (inker), Tony Kordos (inker), Guy Major (colorist), Rob Leigh (letterer), Amedeo Turturro (assistant editor), and Harvey Richards (editor). $2.99, 20 pgs, FC. Cyborg created by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez.
You might wonder about the fact that two weeks ago, "Blue Beetle: Rebirth" came out and I, your inestimable reviewer, did not review it. Yes, it's true, and I apologize for that. That was right when we had The Great Changeover, and I was without access to the blog for a few days, and by the time I got access to the blog, its time had passed. So sad! Last week, of course, DC did not release any "Rebirth" titles because it was a fifth week, so now we're back on track with Cyborg! Yes, as the "Rebirth" initiative winds down, we're dragging out C-level characters that might have enough fans to sustain a series for a year or so. Which makes me wonder: Where's my damned Looker series, DC?!?!?!?
So what's the deal with "Cyborg: Rebirth"? Is it more of the same with these "Rebirth" issues, meaning that nothing much happens while the writer resets the status quo? Well, kind of. I mean, we do get a recap of Victor Stone's origin, including the part where his mother suffers from some miraculous cancer that doesn't require chemotherapy at all and allows her to keep looking super-hawt, but cancer and superhero comics never go well together, so I guess it's something that she actually dies from her illness. Silas Stone, Vic's dad, never had time for him because he was too busy trying to cure Mom's cancer (cue Harry Chapin, folks!), but once Mom dies (don't worry about her name, because she might as well be called Plot Device), it's Silas and Vic against the world! Semper explains how Silas turned Vic into Cyborg, and we're off.
It's not a bad origin recap -- yes, there's some borderline mawkish tendencies with regard to Mother Plot Device, but Semper doesn't dwell on the past too much, and it helps set up his main dramatic point, which is that Silas Stone isn't sure if Vic is actually human anymore. It's not an original idea by any means - Semper even mentions Frankenstein, plus there's Peter Weller's creepy face haunting our memories - but it's certainly not a bad one to explore, and one that has ample space for family dramatics. Because so much of this is encoded in our pop culture DNA, Semper doesn't need to do too much heavy lifting, and that allows him to devote a good deal of time to the Big Bad, which appears to be a member of the Technarchy -- it's like evil Warlock! -- and is called Malware. Malware wants to do something -- it's kind of a lame mission, but it gets us to the end of the book, where much is revealed and Semper ties things in with other DC technological marvels like the Metal Men and Red Tornado, among others -- and Vic has to stop him, and stop him he does. It's all very tidy. The important thing about this issue, at least, is the final two pages, where Semper sets up the ongoing. That's been the case with a lot of these Rebirth issues - this issue uses the exact same template as, say, "Aquaman: Rebirth" -- but at least it's following the path of some of the better ones, in that there's plenty of action, and not the poorer ones, which relied heavily on lame exposition. We get dead kind mothers and remote fathers, because that's baked into pop culture. We don't need more than what Semper gives us in this issue. We want to see punching!
Pelletier is a fairly standard superhero artist, so this looks fine, even though there's nothing really spectacular about it. He tells the story perfectly fine, which is all you can ask for, and his Malware (with computer-enhanced-colored eyes by Major, which is very keen) is big and scary. Silas and Elinore are attractive nerds, of course, because all nerds like to think they're attractive (Elinore can talk about cellular tissue and looks smokin' in a little black dress! marry her!!!), and, as I noted above, Pelletier never gives us any indication that Elinore suffers from cancer, but that's kind of to be expected. Major is kind of the star of the show, using reds in the present to indicate the violence and stress of Malware's attack while cooling things down in the flashbacks and using more blues and greens. The red is also passionate, indicating that Vic retains his humanity because he's still subject to human emotions, and the final few pages show a slight shift to blue, which is slightly less "human." It's a clever trick, and Major does it well. The art is certainly nothing amazing, but it's solid, and that's not a bad thing.
DC has been pushing Cyborg for a few years, and I'm not terribly sure why. He's fine, I guess, but I don't know if it's another symptom of the Geoff Johnsing of the DCU, whereby all of Geoff Johns's favorite characters get pushed to the forefront, or if writers really dig him for some reason and keep pitching Cyborg stories. In the New 52 version of the Justice League, Cyborg stood out like a sore thumb among the DC Big Guns (which we're reminded of on a full-page splash in this issue, where he's fighting parademons with the "old" League), and he's still there in the Brand New League. I don't really care whether he's used or not, I just find it interesting that someone at DC seems to really like him. So now he's getting more exposure, and we'll see how that goes. This issue isn't the greatest thing in the world, but it's a decent place to start. Semper lays down the basics for the character and sets up a threat that feels unique to him, which is always a challenge. We'll see if the character can sustain the publicity push he's getting!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel: