Howdy folks! Today we’re going to take a look at the first trade of a title in Gerard Way’s Young Animal imprint over at DC Comics. You may know Gerard Way from such hits as that band he sings in called My Chemical Romance or that time he worked with Gabriel Ba to put out the Umbrella Academy over at Dark Horse. I guess the story goes that he was looking to restart Doom Patrol, but his version didn’t necessarily fit in with the DCU proper, and Vertigo wasn’t exactly a fully functional thing at the time, so the powers that be gave Way his own imprint. I’m cool with that. The guy obviously has talent, comic knowledge, and creativity out the wazzoo–those are the types of people that should run their own imprints. I remember this one guy named Quesada who started out with a small Marvel Knights imprint and eventually ended up running the whole Marvel Universe to great success. I doubt that will be Way’s path, not for lack of talent, but only because his tastes seem to dip their toes in the familiar and then dive off into territory not normally associated with the mainstream. It’s a little more…out there and it shows throughout his Young Animal imprint.
Anywho, once it was decided that Way would make his own imprint, he started searching for characters that he’d be interested in exploring,and he came upon Cave Carson, a silver age hero without too much of a backstory but very much so with a cybernetic eye. Eureka! So was born… Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye!
Way shares the plotting and writing credit, eventually ceding the scripting totally to Jon Rivera, and the art chores are primarily handled by Michael Avon Oeming and colorist Nick Filardi. Jon Rivera is new to comics as of this book, to the best of my knowledge. I know Michael Avon Oeming from his frequent work with Brian Bendis, and they share their Powers book together. Oeming has a cartoony style that really serves this book well in a way I didn’t expect. Cave Carson as a title reminded me a bit of Johnny Quest, only with fewer kids in the lead and more psychedelic experiences. And f words. And occasional nudity. I forgot decapitations and Mad Dog, too. Ok, maybe it’s not that much like Johnny Quest. He’s an adventurer. He works for a top secret organization, where he may have accidentally stolen his work car once. He used to go on underground adventures with the whole family, but not anymore, as things have changed for Cave.
The story starts with Cave mourning his recently deceased wife, who died due to some mineral-based illness. This brings Cave and his daughter closer together for the time being, as she strolls down memory lane watching family videos while Cave reports in to his secret agency work situation. Well, it turns out mom was a princess to some alien race. Cave knew; his daughter did not. That leads to some friction. Cave’s secret agency is actually run by a cult looking to do bad stuff. That leads to more friction. I think they’re still mad at him for stealing that car, too. It’s up to Cave, his buddy Mad Dog (remember him from the 90’s? This book kind of gives him a reason to exist!), and his daughter set out to evade the bad guys, visit her grandparents, and save everybody in the process from the cult dudes from the agency and a bunch of buggy alien bad dudes. They traverse through underground tunnels and boom tubes and all manner of craziness to accomplish their goals.
Speaking of craziness, did I mention that Cave is losing his mind? He thinks it has something to do with his cybernetic eye. I’m sure living with his dying wife and his free-spirited daughter and the results of years of adventure might have something to do with it, too.
The story holds together largely because of the flexibility of Oeming’s art. He can handle conceptual splash pages like this one above the paragraph. He can handle the emotional scenes that a story with so much loss needs to handle. He can do the bugs, the aliens, the madcap violence, and then, thanks to the coloring of Nick Filardi, he can handle the crazypants scenes as well.
The colors go from muted pinks and purples and blues to high pitched psychodelic warm oranges and yellows as the needs of the scene dictate. This is a book where perception shifts around the characters pretty quickly, and the art and colors do a great job keeping Way and Rivera’s story clear and readable.
The story also doesn’t take itself too seriously, and will take some time to poke fun of itself and some classic comic book tropes. In the following scene, everything is as simple as one call to one of Cave’s old friends.
Except there’s one problem. Cave, you’re a forgotten hero from the Silver Age. There have been a ton of reboots since then. First you had a crisis to de-age Superman, and then one to make Superboy a bad guy, and one to take away Superman’s underpants in exchange for a collar and some unnecessary lines on his costume and then another reboot to add the underpants back on while keeping some unnecesary costume lines…the point is…
The story is lots of fun. The bugs, the aliens, the alien bugs, the bad guys, the bad guys that are good guys and the good guys who are really bad guys–they all factor in to an enjoyable reading experience. Michael Avon Oeming and Nick Filardi do masterful work with the art and colors. The cartoony style somehow grounds the story while still allowing room for all of the wackiness to happen around it. The story has plenty of twists and turns and as I mentioned before, the idea of perception is constantly askew in this book. You never really know who to trust, whether it’s a character or even a panel in front of your own cybernetic or glassernetic or contacteretic or just plain normaletic eyes.
Who is this book for:
- People who are young and hip and into comic books developed by rock stars. Young Animal is basically Vertigo by a Rock Star Dude. It’s cool and that’s ok. I don’t care if it’s cool. It’s good.
- People who are looking for over the top violence, drug allusions, and other adult themes in their comic books. It’s edgy! Like Mad Dog!
- People who enjoy trips through the surreal where not everything is what it seems. Also like Mad Dog!
- People who can dig a cartoony art style that allows the colors to do a lot of heavy lifting. Also..well, Mad Dog isn’t really relevant here.
- If you dig Mike Allred’s out-there stylized Madman comics or early Vertigo books, this may be a match for you. Perhaps you’re a Mad Dog fan.
Who this book isn’t for:
- People looking for wholesome family adventure tales that don’t involve guns, beheadings, alien blood spray, nudity, or foul language. It’s got that stuff.
- People who want their “adult” tales grim and gritty or so adult you can’t even see where the story is. This isn’t that. It’s fun and sad and silly sometimes in between all of the violence and adulty stuff.
- People that are easily susceptible to dangerous ideas in fiction. If you watched Fight Club and started calling everyone “snowflake” and punching people in real life, you’re missing the point of fiction. You’ll miss it here, too. Just…stop. There are adult themes in this book that you’re not ready for.
I enjoyed Cave Carson and his Cybernetic Eye, Volume 1. I will effort to pick up Volume 2, which I saw was also currently available. This is not the type of book I would subscribe to and read every month, but it serves as a nice change of pace when the fancy strikes. I’m a family Chad and don’t do a lot of things that are considered young, hip, or dangerous. I don’t use or abuse substances, nor do I recommend those activities. I usually like to keep my fare family friendly, just in case the kiddos walk by to see what Dad is reading. I do, however, enjoy art that helps me to see things in a different way. The way this book plays with perception, I think it falls into that category.
Cave Carson Has Cybernetic Eye, Vol. 1: Going Underground: B+
One last thing: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the trade includes a backup Super Powers story by Tom Scioli. I’m familiar with Scioli from his work on Tranformers vs. G.I.Joe, which is totally fun and totally bananas. I could take another 1500 words just to go through the back-up, but instead, I’ll provide you to the link to Scioli’s own blog/director’s cut. You can walk through the story with him there, and it’s a much more rewarding experience than I can provide.
If you’re looking for one stop shopping for Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, Vol. 1: Going Underground, click that hyperlink to go Amazon-ing.
If you’d like to give Cave Carson or any of the other Young Animal books a try, but don’t know where to go in real life, try the comic shop locator.
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Until next time, my friends,
My blogs will remain the ones with the cybernetic ghost-vision based noises!
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