Saturday, August 31, 2013

I read Cyberforce and Aphrodite IX

In the 90s, I was a teenager, so for my comics reading this meant two things. 1. My traditional reads of Marvel comics were of particularly low quality and 2. Top Cow's bad girl/cheesecake approach was just the thing for my out of control hormones. I became a big fan of Witchblade and Fathom, as well as the ultra violence that Darkness offered. I threw myself into their darker than Marvel universe, but I never got round to Cyberforce or Aphrodite IX. Both tech based comics would suit my love of Sci-Fi, but both seemed at odds with the supernatural world Witchblade and Darkness inhabited. Then I switched back to Marvel.

This of course meant I missed the rebirth of Top Cow under the guiding light of Ron Marz but that's another story. However, not only has the mystical side gone through a relaunch, but they well all out with Cyberforce and tried a Kickstarter. Which meant that the crowd funding paid for the first five issues so Top Cow could give them away for free. It's a bold move. They also gave away the first issue of Aphrodite IX's reboot for Free Comic Book Day. So naturally I gave them both a try.

The two books form two sides of one coin. Cyberforce is based around mega-conglomerate CDI's prophecy that the world is going to end and just exactly what they're doing about that, while Aphrodite IX is set a few thousand years after said end of the world, dealing with the consequences of CDI's messing about with human DNA.

Cyberforce of old was, as far as I know, about a special forces unit with cybernetics who go rogue. That's pretty much the same here, only the focus here is as much on CDI as the mercs. Rather than out and out fighting for their freedom, the mercs have been on the lam for a number of years already, and are now simply hiding. Things kick off when the Velocity, daughter of CDI's CEO, makes a break for it and goes looking for the old Cyberforce. This of course brings them out of retirement and gets everyone looking at CDI's dodgy dealings.

What really gets me is that Marc Silvestri and Matt Hawkins aren't afraid to deviate from the expected path. It's pretty easy to think you know exactly where this reboot is going. Cyberforce has some well established characters you all know are going to step up to the plate when they need too. Issue one in particular plays into those beliefs. Only more often then not, they don't. In fact pretty early on there's a massacre that takes a number of big names out, and the series ends with even more going bye-bye. It makes you wonder exactly where the the book is going to go from here.

It is also dense as hell. The five issues funded by Kickstarter form a pretty decent story arc, but reading one issue alone is a waste of time. This is really a read only in a collected format, or at least a read once you own all the issues. Not that I see that as a huge problem, I just mentioning it as a warning to others.

Aphrodite IX is a bit better, with each issue able to stand on it's own a lot more. The Aphrodite program is also main connection between the two books, you know, except for that whole end of the world thing that CDI were planning for. Aphrodite IX explains that the program was part of CDI's aim of creating a perfect gene-modified cybernetic lifeform, and Aphrodite was not only one of the big successes but also their assassin/spy model. IX is one of the best CDI created, after a disastrous VIII series that IX is cleaning up. There's also an Aphrodite model playing rather a large role over in Cyberforce, though we have yet to find out her number.

Anyway, Aphrodite IX is several hundred years after the end of the world, and CDI's plan to create a new cybernetic/gene modified lifeform to survive it has worked. Sort of. Instead of one lifeform, there's two, the cybernetics and the genetically engineered, and they're naturally at war. And in stasis is Aphrodite IX who gets awakened and joins one side, while her handler throws in with the other. What follows though isn't quite so predictable, and with Matt Hawkins not being anchored down by Marc Silvestri, the book is better for it. Considering the main character is a cyborg that can be taken control of without her knowledge, the conflict is played pretty well, and doesn't drag out discoveries it would be all too easy to string out.

The art of Aphrodite IX is amazing, though with the digital painting of Stjepan Sejic that's not exactly surprising. The brief loosk I've had with the Witchblade/Darkness rebirth were always because of his work, and here it continues to amaze. He really brings the difference between the cybernetic populace and genetically modified paradise to light. I wish I could say the same about Cyberforce.

Despite being a Marvel artist since his discovery, Khoi Pham matches the old house style of Top Cow to a T. He looks like he trained under Silvestri and Turner, so it's no surprise that his first book away from the House of Ideas is the title Silvestri opened Top Cow with. Something about his lines just don't quite work here though. His style is very sketchy, and a comic based around cybernetics strikes me as one that needs crisp and clear lines. There's also times where I've felt his faces aren't particularly individual, and character emotions are a little bland. Pham can certainly draw, but I feel someone along the crisp lines of Patrick Zircher would be better suited for book like this.

The two books feels like they're are in their own world, and I hope to God that it is. They've tried numerous times before to tie Cyberforce to the rest of the Top Cow universe, and it never works. Because Top Cow have such a small stable of characters, the disparate nature of them clashes a lot more than what DC and Marvel can get away with. A world rife with cybernetics and genetic engineering feels more at odds with the supernatural when you only have a cast of about 25 heroes. Here they form to halves to one hell of a story.

It may have been the total lack of cost that got me reading these two titles, but I'd happily lay down some cash for the next Cyberforce arc, and with Aphrodite I already have. That's really the most important factor here.
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