I’ve mentioned before how recently I’ve been drawn to diversity in my comic books. Earlier in the week, I started to hear some buzz about Cyborg, the new DC title focused on the titular character and written by David F. Walker (who also writes Shaft) and illustrated by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis. What I heard was that it addressed issues of race and disability. I was in.
Of course, Cyborg, Vic Stone, isn’t a new character to me. I know him as an ensemble player in Teen Titans and Justice League Unlimited. But he’s never been even as fleshed out as JLA’s Jon Stewart. The first issue first and foremost establishes Vic’s relationship with his father. It’s complicated. Dad was distant, but when Vic was mortally burned in a fire, his father Silas saved him by grafting him with machine technology, turning him into Cyborg, a being that Vic explains is more machine than man (you know, like Darth Vader). So Vic has some difficulty with those around him, especially his father, seeing him as a human being.
Here’s where the examination of disability comes in. S.T.A.R. labs, where Silas Stone works, is being protested by a group of people, some missing limbs or sitting in wheel chairs. Vic, through a kind of visual voice over with a light barcode in the background to suggest the computer machine aspect of Vic, states feelings shared by many with visible disabilities: “Some people stare. Some people look away in horror. I hate both.” I’m interested to see where this theme goes in future issues. For a superhero book, its ground that isn’t frequently explored, except in Batgirl.
As far as plot goes, there are two threads being woven. The personal one is that Cyborg’s body is doing new and strange things that he doesn’t understand, so he’s come to his father for assistance. The epic danger involves two alien races, one which has recognizable tech–it looks like Cyborg’s–and the other wants to acquire that tech. They’re certainly an enticing set of hooks.
The art by Joe Prado and Ivan Reis is pretty fantastic. Their faces are emotionally evocative with nuances registering easily. However the true exhibition of talent is in their treatment of flashbacks which happen concurrently in a panel with the present character(s) grappling with their significance. The action of the flashback appears in the background in a translucent red toned image to contrast the pervasive blue of the present. It’s visually intense and artistically stunning.
Cyborg deserved some special treatment after being a team player for so long. Walker, Reis, and Prado are handling him like royalty.