I took some time this past weekend to catch up on some pull-list series that had been accumulating on my bookshelf. I get anywhere from 3-8 comic books a week—depending on the release schedule and the delays—so while I do try to keep up with everything on a regular basis, sometimes things fall by the wayside.
On my reading list were the most recent issues of David F. Walker’s Cyborg run for DC. I’m actually not traditionally a DC reader (I read X-Men as an adolescent and segued from there into a Bucky Barnes obsession during the Fear Itself crossover), but I wanted to branch out a bit and the DCYou initiative seemed like a safe time to do so. (DC: Rebirth has kind of thrown a monkey-wrench into that plan, but that topic is neither here nor there.) One of the titles in the DCYou roster that I decided to pick up was the aforementioned Cyborg. I had liked David Walker’s Shaft miniseries for Dynamite and the concept of the Cyborg character—half-man, half-machine, facing the process of evolution in the midst of a somewhat hostile society—struck a chord with me.
I have not been disappointed.
Walker’s first story arc has explored the concept of bodily evolution in tandem with the concept of philosophical evolution. Alongside a classic story of alien invasion, and the requisite heroes vs villains set pieces that entails, Walker has broached the ever-relevant question of what makes a person human. The startling, and seemingly autonomous, developments of the tech that keeps main character Vic Stone alive, have led him to question—as his tech integrates more thoroughly and inextricably with his flesh—not just what is happening to his body, but what is happening to his humanity. This is an issue made all the more powerful because Vic is a black superhero, and the dehumanization of black characters (particularly in SF/F genres) remains so prevalent in media today.
Walker’s approach to this character is brilliantly self-aware. He knows exactly what he is doing, and he’s not pulling any punches. In issue 5 (pictured above), Vic complains about the negative representation of cyborgs in media and how that representation hurts cyborgs psychologically. This allusion is absolutely meant to be conflated with the representation of black Americans; the invisibility that Vic experiences, the assumptions about his intentions because he is a cyborg, these are deliberate comments on the ongoing racism of American society. In the next arc, it looks like the metaphor is going to become even more pointed, as the US Government has just laid claim to Vic Stone and his tech—seeking to impose ownership over him in a manner that cannot help but bring to mind America’s ugly history of slavery and segregation.
Given how real the series is about to get, it’s a great shame that David Walker will be leaving after issue 9. It’ll be interesting to see how the new writer—who at this point is not specified—will handle the direction Walker was working toward. If the book shifts significantly in tone, I don’t foresee keeping up with it after its rebirth.