Review: Cyborg Vol. 2: Enemy of the State trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Unfortunately Cyborg Vol. 2: Enemy of the State loses a step in the run up to Rebirth. Halfway through, DC You-series writer David Walker, who wrote an exceptional first volume, bows out, and Marv Wolfman finishes the book. Wolfman is of course no stranger to the Cyborg Vic Stone character, but his swift completion to Walker's story doesn't quite satisfy, nor do his two one-off stories that follow before this iteration of the series ended. The book concludes with a Rebirth special by new writer John Semper that's a tad formulaic (though presents a fair primer on Cyborg so far). All in all, Cyborg loses a bit of its "wow factor" here, and we can only hope Semper can bring it back in Rebirth.

[Review contains spoilers]

David Walker follows his epic six-issue Cyborg Vol. 1: Unplugged -- which definitively establishes the New 52 Justice League's Cyborg as a hero in his own right -- with three equally good issues here. In the first, no one throws a punch, and it's always a plus in my book when a writer can duck that particular "one fight per issue" convention. The second two issues unfold nontraditionally, cut with flashbacks that constantly re-contextualize the present action. Here again, Walker's emphasis is on how much the Justice League trusts Cyborg Vic Stone and how much faith they have in him. If Cyborg has been slotted into the Martian Manhunter's historic role in the Justice League, at least they each serve as a similar heart of the team; Walker also aligns with the Justice League title to preserve Cyborg and Shazam's buddy-buddy friendship.

Walker's story sees Cyborg allowing himself to be captured by the "Cyber-Tech" group (as part of the government's crackdown on cybernetic beings) for the purpose of infiltrating Cyber-Tech itself. In this vein Marv Wolfman's conclusion is not so far off, as he reveals that Cyber-Tech is run by the aliens that Cyborg fought in the last book and this is all a part of the same world-conquering plan. That the end simply comes too fast is mainly the problem, and also that for as much as Walker has set up these anti-cybernetic issues as a riff on discrimination, having it all be an alien plot takes the wind out of it a little. Wolfman also explains away Walker's recent addition of a digital ghost of Vic's mother as also part of the alien plot, which certainly shorts the emotion that storyline needs, and also it gets a little wobbly how that trap was supposed to work and who knew what when.

No doubt there's something brilliant in Wolfman's issue that sees Vic save a plane-full of people entirely through digital creativity while his body is stuck in stasis; let's not forget that when Wolfman created Cyborg, the internet as we know it today didn't exist. (Meanwhile Wolfman has Vic distract the people on the plane by illegally downloading and then streaming all their favorite movies, which he culls from their Facebook likes.) But that issue also sees Vic swiftly decide that the first Muslim woman he encounters on the plane must be the culprit, in a story that not only ham-handedly handles these issues of prejudice but also sees Vic fighting a manifestation of a computer virus in the form of a virtual dragon, this virtual reality nonsense being one of my pet peeves.

The second issue sees Vic trying to help some kids who've broken into STAR Labs to try to control their mutating powers, with parallels to Cyborg's own origin. But there's clumsiness here too, specifically that the kids' scientist father is apparently a STAR Labs bigwig but never given a name, such that I waited throughout the story for some other shoe to drop that never did. This is representative of little missteps throughout, not all necessarily Wolfman's fault, like some missing scene-setting boxes in Wolfman's story and at least one instance where Cyborg's father Silas is meant to be talking to himself but he's given a word balloon as if he's speaking aloud.

John Semper's Cyborg: Rebirth special, collected here, has going for it some remarkably good Paul Pelletier art, which has fine detail overall and Pelletier makes the robotic behemoth bad guy surprisingly frightening (credit too to colorist Guy Major). Semper's story is basically a retelling of Vic's origin, which on one hand I acknowledge is probably what a Rebirth special should do. On the other hand, the story is just so on the nose as to be boring here at the end of two whole Cyborg volumes that themselves went over the origin a time or two; it's reductive, and Vic's fight against "Malware" boilerplate, when the Rebirth specials should perhaps be more of a launching point than this. Additionally, Pelletier's drawing Vic as more robotic than he's been of late, seemingly ignoring the gains in Vic's humanity that have occurred in Walker's run without any explanation for the change.

In total this makes Cyborg Vol. 2: Enemy of the State less than what I'd hoped, and it's a shame given just how good the first volume was. Again, my sincere hope is that John Semper can turn this around and move the next Cyborg series in the right direction; it would be a shame to see all of that progress come to nothing, and surely every single Justice League member deserves their own series.

[Includes original and variant covers, Cyborg: Rebirth special]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Cyborg Vol. 2: Enemy of the State
Author Rating
3 (out of 5)
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