Victor Stone was once a star athlete with a promising future. That changed after an accident in the lab of his father, Dr. Silas Stone, that left Victor horribly burned and on death’s door. To save his son, Dr. Stone exposed Victor to alien technology in a bid to repair his body. The machinery merged with Victor instead, saving his life but transforming him into a strange hybrid of man and machine—a Cyborg! Victor’s machine body has given him amazing powers and made him a member of The Justice League. Still, Victor can’t help but wonder—is he truly Victor Stone within the body of a machine or a machine programmed to believe that he is Victor Stone?

Those who only know of Cyborg as the pizza-loving, Booyah-shouting, video-game addict with a penchant for ’80s progressive rock from Teen Titans Go! will find DC Comics’ Cyborg series to be an entirely different sort of story. The first two volumes of Cyborg’s series in DC Comics’ Rebirth reality are deadly serious, depicting Cyborg as a troubled figure tormented by many questions. Apart from the aforementioned doubts that he is truly Victor Stone, Cyborg must cope with the fact that his father apparently erased part of his memory in a bid to ease his trauma. This has resulted in Cyborg losing both the memory of his first girlfriend from high-school and the memory of the woman he left her for, saying that he’d found his soul-mate!

These questions are largely kept to the background of Cyborg’s first major story arc, The Imitation of Life. Curiously, this story arc continues into the second volume, Danger in Detroit, with the first volume not containing the full story. It is vitally important, then, that any library considering purchasing this series make sure to have both volumes available immediately. Unfortunately, I’m a bit mixed on my feelings regarding whether or not I can recommend this series to any library or not.

As much as I enjoyed writer John Semper, Jr.’s work on the classic Spider-Man: The Animated Series from my childhood, his writing here makes it apparent that the skills that make a good screenwriter do not necessarily translate into being a good comic writer. Semper has an unfortunate tendency to have his villains exposit in overly lengthy monologues. While some degree of this is unavoidable (particularly when you have tech-based hacker villains whose powers aren’t physically dynamic) it reaches some truly ridiculous extremes. This is especially true of Anomaly, the mastermind set up as Cyborg’s arch-enemy, who spends the first few issues talking to the protagonists through proxies with a good deal of “They will not recognize me yet but soon…Soon they shall pay, and then the world! BWAHAHAHA!” style dialogue. While a good voice actor could make such dialogue menacing, it comes off a bit dry in print.

The best parts of the book are the quieter moments in which Cyborg tackles the questions regarding his humanity, his lost love and his relationship with his father. One of the more powerful sequences has Victor being tricked into attending a party at a community center for the physically disabled, where the people want to thank him for setting a good example, though Victor never thought of himself as having a physical disability. It’s a nice nod to the classic Teen Titans comics where Victor worked with disadvantaged children and one wishes we had seen more of that in this book and less of Cyborg wrestling with one-shot villains like Ratattack and H8-Bit.

The artwork for both volumes is equally problematic. The first volume alone was produced by five different pencillers, seven inkers and three colorists. This results in the books’ visuals lacking any sense of uniformity throughout the story. It doesn’t help matters that some of the artwork changes in mid-chapter and that some of it is more cartoonish than is appropriate to the largely bleak and serious story.

Both volumes of Cyborg are rated 12+ for teen audiences. I consider that to be a fair assessment of the content but I don’t believe most teens will get much from this series. The action sequences are too simplistic for the intended audience and the technical jargon spouted as exposition will likely bore anyone who isn’t a die-hard science-fiction wonk.

Cyborg, vol. 1: The Imitation of Life
by John Semper, Jr.
Art by Paul Pelletier and Will Conrad
ISBN: 9781401267926

Cyborg, vol. 2: Danger In Detroit
by John Semper, Jr.
Art by Paul Pelletier and Will Conrad
ISBN: 9781401270872
DC Comics, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 12+

  • Matt

    | He/Him Librarian

    Reviewer

    A librarian with over 10 years experience in public and academic settings, Matthew Morrison has been blogging about comic books for nearly as long as they’ve had a word for it.  Over the past two decades, he has written regular columns, commentary, parodies and reviews for such websites and blogs as Fanzing, 411 Mania, Screen Rant and Comics Nexus.  He has served as an Expert in Residence for a seminar on Graphic Novels and Comics for Youth and Adults at the University of North Texas and has given several lectures on the history of comics, manga and cosplay culture at libraries and comic conventions around the country. In addition to his work for No Flying No Tights, he is the Contributing Editor of Kabooooom.com and maintains a personal blog at MyGeekyGeekyWays.com.

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