Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer

Cyberforce_Hunter-KillerThese characters have a history. And I have no idea what it is. Good news: the comic doesn’t care, either.

I don’t want to dismiss the back story entirely. I know that Cyberforce and Hunter-Killer were separate comics. Cyberforce hails from the dawn of the 90s, while Hunter-Killer is more recent, from 2005. Their connection comes from Marc Silvestri, who had a hand in creating both series. The two teams are brought together in this 2009 title, penned by the original author of Hunter-Killer, Mark Waid.

Okay. That wasn’t too hard to get through.

Despite the labyrinth comics history can send us through, this comic doesn’t carry any baggage. It’s actually pretty impressive how quickly the two teams come together and are introduced to the reader. As in any good team up, the groups are initially set against one another, and, in this case, in a very explosive melee. Through all that action, the characters and their superpowers are established quite deftly. While you may not remember all of their names after the first few pages, you will be familiar enough with their powers that you appreciate by how many degrees they can kick your butt.

The two disparate groups are brought together by Ellis, the former leader of the Hunter-Killer team. Estranged for years, he’s returned now with grave tidings about an enemy named Morningstar, and technology that threatens not just ultra-humans, but the world.

Did you just get chills there?

With a smack of intrigue, some cool takes on powers, and a nice bit of globe-trotting, Mark Waid delivers a very competent superhero tale. While there’s room for sequels, this set of comics offers an enclosed thriller. It might not go very deep, but there’s a lot of face-punching, so you’re always entertained. The characters are more caricatures – Waid can coast on the reader understanding, “This is the happy character,” or “This is the gruff character,” so he doesn’t need to humanize them much for reader to grasp the situation. While the dearth of distinct characterization could irk a longer tale, it fits perfectly against an action backdrop.

The man responsible for providing that setting is Kenneth Rocafort. His art is all balanced on thin tendrils of lines that are so sketchy they can seem as if they are in mid-movement. It’s an effect I enjoy, but I can see how it might be polarizing for other readers. The layout matches the tone and style well. The entire story is a breakneck adventure, so the panels are frequently overlaid and of smaller and thinner size as the crescendo of the scene is built up. It’s not always easy to pull off a fast pace without taking the reader down the wrong rabbit hole, but Rocafort’s layouts perform nicely.

The huge cast of characters is greatly helped by the different character design. I’m not sure how much Rocafort has to thank his predecessors for this, but all of the characters are unique, making it hard to mistake one for the other. An almost equal ratio of guys and girls on the squad helps out, but it’s the physical characteristics that let them stand apart from one another. Obviously they all have six-pack abs and/or giant boobs, but they also have unique costuming that isn’t afraid to be in your face. If it isn’t the color that’s distinguishing them, it’s the facial markings. It’s good that in a book filled to the brim with characters, Rocafort found ways to make it hard for a reader to be confused.

As fresh and fun as Rocafort’s art proves to be, Cyberforce/Hunter Killer is still a superhero comic. So, if you like your ladies without the ability to pull up a zipper and your men big and brawny and punching through monsters, you will not be disappointed. If, however, you prefer that your comics not set scenes by aligning all action to a women’s bust, you might take a pass.

Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer is a solid summer blockbuster. It won’t tug at you with deep allegories, but things will blow up. Sometimes that’s enough.

Cyberforce/Hunter-Killer, vol. 1
by Mark Waid
Art by Kenneth Rocafort
ISBN: 978-160706104
Image, 2010

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