August 16, 2015

Cybersix comic, volume 1, part 2


As with the last half, be warned that the comic I'm looking at here is very not family friendly, with copious amounts of nudity, sex, sexual violence, and violence. Still gonna keep my descriptions to our usual PG-13 standards, but be aware if any of the above doesn't sit well with you.

This is also where we reach the point where I had to start translating material on my own. Again, I've never studied French and am relying on Google for the heavy lifting, so if anything I describe doesn't perfectly line up with what was actually written, that's entirely on me.

Chapter 9

Desperate for another Sustenance fix, Cybersix hunts the rooftops, finding and setting in on a Techno. Realizing he was keeping watch for something, she sees dozens of Fixed Ideas scouring the alleys until they corral a fellow Techno who's trying to escape from them. Cyber wonders if one among that line has finally gone "disobedient" like the Cybers before it, and rescues the Techno, but not before he's knocked out by a bullet graze. Needing somewhere to secure him while digging up more info, she drops him with Lucas, who's always eager to help.

She blackbags and kidnaps another Techno, interrogating him for info, and he casually tells her there's no such thing as a disobedient Techno, that there's a virus going around which turns them into psychotic killers. She races back to Lucas just in time to take out the singing psychotic before he can do Lucas in with a butcher's knife.

It's an okay plot, nice little double-twist thriller, but doesn't leave much impact. And it ends on an odd scene of Lucas opening up to Adrian about how he'd love to make love to Cybersix, ending on a blushing Adrian asking a waiter for another cream. I see what you did there. Best bit is a flashback panel showing all of the Cyber children lined up before Von Reichter as he lectures them about obedience and examples. I'm guessing he didn't do this very many times before scrapping the whole line. Also interesting is Cyber wondering if this is a virus which could affect her. I'll be curious to see if that's a plot thread which comes up again.

Chapter 10

A few slivers of this one made it into both "Data-7 & Julian" and "Full Moon Fascination".

It's Christmastime, and Adrian is trying to find the perfect gift for Lucas, settling on a book of poems by their much discussed favorite poet, Pessoa. Cybersix changes, longing all the way for Lucas' touch, tells Data-7 she can't prowl with him as she has other plans, and arrives at Lucas' apartment. This is going to be their night, but strangely, his shutters are closed. Peering through, Cybersix is heartbroken (literally a thought balloon with a shattering heart in it) as she sees him having sex with a beautiful woman. Cybersix leaves the present sitting on his windowsill and leaps away.

In another thread, while Adrian was shopping, a handful of cash was snatched by a child who lost him in the alleys. This, of course, is Julian, who looks like a much more rundown version of the toon, with limper hair, a more wizened scowl, and a constant stream of snot dribbling from one nostril. He's still a good kid, though, and has a nice acerbic wit in place of the cartoon's almost swashbuckling gusto.

Peering through a grocery window as he works out what he wants to feed himself with the cash he has, he's suddenly surrounded by a gang of punks who take the money and want to teach him a little lesson about stealing in their neighborhood. He fights back and flees, but they catch up to him and start dragging him off a fire escape. He's suddenly snatched away, finding himself on the arm of Cybersix as she soars away (great shot of him looking stunned as they fly off into the sky).

She recognizes him, though he doesn't know from where, and leaves him on a rooftop. He stops her, though, asking if she has any other plans. When she says she has a friend she wants to be with for Christmas, he asks if he can come with as he has nowhere else to go. So she introduces him to Data-7.

This is a really touching chapter, both sweet and heartbreaking. Yeah, they linger on Lucas getting laid for a few more panels than they need to, but there's a great build to Cyber's anticipation for the night, followed by the sudden brick wall of disappointment coming down. And the Julian thread is a really nice way to intro the character, ending on a great moment of two lonely people deciding to share the holidays together. I like how Julian was introduced in the cartoon, but this alternate is just as nice in its own way.

Chapter 11

We open on shots of Adrian leaving school, followed by Lori's gang. However, playing over it is a conversation where Adrian reveals to Lucas he's finally met Cybersix and believes the other teacher. Lucas is understandably desperate to learn more. So Adrian is yanked into an alley by the goons, who watched to make sure Lucas wouldn't interrupt them this time. They pin him down, forcing him to watch as Lori does a strip routine on some trash cans. Despite Adrian's protests that he'll have them suspended from school and the dudes all arguing he's probably gay, Lori says "What I've got is enough to get a rise out of anyone!"

And that's when Cybersix appears! She beats up the goons, as well as the naked Lori, and swoops Adrian back to his apartment. There, they share a tender kiss and you can hear the record scratch as Lucas goes nuts over this, demanding to know why this happened. It seems Cybersix told Adrian about three nights she swung by Lucas' only to find him with another woman.

Lucas instantly deflates and tells the story of his old flame, Rebecca Limon, a noted tv journalist in Meridiana. They broke up a while back when she showed him a report she made about a masked mob pouring into a ghetto to kill as many black children as they could find. Lucas is horrified, especially that she didn't show the murders she captured on camera to the police, with her deflecting that she might lose her exclusive if she had. Years passed and it was in recent days that Rebecca came back into his life, apologetic and wishing to patch things up. She was always amazing in bed, so the desperate and lonely Lucas says he couldn't help himself. After three nights of screwing, he awoke to find her rifling through his papers, having come back just to steal his research on biogenetic experiments.

So he kicked her out and is now in the dumps to hear he ruined things with Cybersix. Yet Adrian assures him, and as she leaves, Cybersix is joyed that her ruse succeeded in telling her what she wanted to hear, and that it all came from kissing herself against the glass of a mirror.

There is a problem with that ending, the entire scenario of Cybersix wanting to manipulate a jealous reaction out of Lucas, as well as the whole fantasy situation involving Lori. It takes what's otherwise another nice recontextualization of the chapter before and makes it very uncomfortable and questionable. I know Cybersix was hurt and desperate to either get some petty payback or reshuffle the situation in her own favor, but this isn't a cool thing to do, so her triumph feels hollow. And Lucas really had done nothing wrong. His hookup with an old flame who offered was fully justified, and wasn't done against Cybersix in any way. She still has such limited involvement in his life that there's no way he could expect what happened to happen.

Rebecca is an interesting addition to the cast. The cut-throat reporter with an old tie to Lucas, I could definitely see her coming into the picture in some way should the cartoon have made it to a second season. And with the story she's reporting on, it's very interesting how this comic does make bold statements now and then about horrible things done to people of color through hate and prejudice, and yet still draws those ethnic minorities in the rather disgusting ways it does.

Chapter 12

We're in a mansion office, Nazi eagles and a portrait of Von Reichter on the wall. In a chair, back to us, someone beats a computer in a game of chess. Again. He's so incredibly bored, and when a Fixed Idea enters and asks what's wrong, he says he's bored with them, too, and wants to go out. When the Fixed Idea says that's against orders, the hulking figure is snatched and flung into the portrait with such force that his head is completely crushed. Rising from the chair is José.

Yep, we've reached José, and there's a lot that's similar and a lot that's different about him. The design is largely the same, though with a black shirt instead of a lighter color, and he's played with a much colder menace than the constant cartoon shenanigans of the tv show. We find out he's again made straight from Von Reichter's genes and is seen as a direct son, but he's also much more clearly modeled on Hitler, with the goose-stepping, the way he violently gesticulates when giving angry speeches, even the shading under his nose is done in such a way as to evoke the now unfortunately signature toothbrush moustache. It's also stated he has the physical strength of an elephant, meaning his machinations aren't the only way in which he's a threat. In many ways, I like this José much more than the toon version. In others... well, we'll get there.

Spending the evening together, Cybersix recounts for Julian a Native American creation myth about the sun and the moon. By Native American, the original text for Cybersix's dialogue literally translates to "redskins", because this book is racist no matter how much it pretends not to be. Anyway, she suddenly lurches away, having to go off and refill on Substance (formerly Sustenance, not sure why it's changed). Which leads Julian to monologue about the typicalities of women and how her mothering fits all the stereotypes. Because this book is sexist no matter how much it pretends not to be. Anyway...

He's then greeted by José, who's found a baseball bat and is looking for another child to play with. Julian's not interested, as he's scrounging for food and doesn't like the game, but José reassures him he doesn't want to actually play baseball. He's cornered a cat and wants to smash it to a pulp. Julian knocks the bat away in horror, leading José to snap it in half and attempt to strangle Julian to death.

Cybersix thankfully swoops back, calming a freaking Julian as he asks if José is something like her. She doesn't know. As they watch, José rants to the heavens that he knows who she is and that one day they'll play.

Noted issues aside, this is one hell of an introduction for José, slowly sliding him into view, establishing what he's capable of, then having him cross not our hero's path, but one of the hero's most vulnerable friends. It's chilling, it's exciting. It definitely sets the stage for a promising conflict to come. Much moreso than the cartoon ever did.

As the chapter ends, we find out Von Reichter has José under surveillance and isn't too worried about the curious boy getting the lay of the town. Despite this, Krumens wishes he could be sent in the boy's place as he knows the plans the doctor has in store. Von Reichter shouts him down. Why would he trust a mere human when he has genetically engineered perfection under his wing. Now see, this is why we needed more than just José as a primary underling in the cartoon. Krumens would have been great to have, as the loyal human constantly shot down in favor of the genetically perfect but more chaotic favored son. So many plots could go to hell out of this petty conflict.

Our final bit is José trotting along, enjoying an ice cream cone, and seeing an old lady struggling with stairs to a subway. He pushes her down to her death when she calls him "little", and he continues on.

Chapter 13

José's back at the mansion, and right back to being bored. He decides to flare up a reaction from a Fixed Idea for fun. He tears apart the brute's garden then starts whipping him with a belt for having the gall to believe the boy would like flowers. The Fixed Idea lashes back, knocking the boy across the room, then suddenly realizes what he's done. Grinning, José says he'll hold off on punishing him until the count of three, and that the Fixed Idea will have a chance to hide. He bolts, finding a gun, and even contemplates shooting José, but he's far too loyally programmed to serve his masters.

Seeing Cybersix swing past, he follows her to her apartment and crashes in just as she's changing to Adrian for dinner with Lucas. By capturing her, the Fixed Idea will get in good with his master again, but... but... he suddenly runs out of Substance. Seriously, that's the entire resolution of the conflict. He just suddenly dries up and collapses. And it doesn't help that he's been ogling Cybersix standing there with her shirt open and promising that she'll be raped by José, who's fully sexually mature despite his childlike stature. Nor that her monologue's had her plotting to find new ways to make Lucas jealous because she loves getting that reaction out of him. This is really the point in the book for me where the grosser aspects are starting to pile on top of one another and take away from the fun and intrigue.

Anyway, she dumps the Fixed Idea in an alley where he's found by José, but before the brute can say what he's learned about Cybersix, he dies, leaving José once again shaking his fists and ranting to the sky about how he'll get her and her little panther too.

Chapter 14

These next two chapters were loosely adapted into "Lori is Missing".

Lori's at the family circus (!) practicing acrobatics with her brother Tonio. He wishes she'd set aside the gang life and join the business, but she's not interested. This actually would have been a cool detail to preserve in the cartoon. Alas. Plus, she's already got her sights set on someone romantically.

Yep, she's following Adrian after school again, tracking down his apartment. She's excited and has a plan, going straight up to his door and tearfully admitting her love for him and that she can't live without him. He peels open his shirt and she starts licking his bony chest before they take it further. Which is all revealed to be a fantasy as Lori almost gives her pursuit of Adrian away with a loud orgasm.

She makes it to Adrian's door, but before she can knock, she hears voices within. Peering through the keyhole, she sees a nude Cybersix stepping into clothes and promising someone out of view that she'll snuggle with him like old times when she gets back. That someone is, of course, Data-7, but Lori doesn't know this, and when she sees the woman leap out a window, the girl puts her acrobatics to use in following her.

Cybersix has plans to finally pour out her emotions to Lucas and learn if "we, the creatures of the lab, can enjoy the mysteries of love." It's a little awkward at first when she finally gets there, but before she goes on, he gently shushes her, says "come here", and they pull into a beautiful kiss. It's not quite the sweeping moment it was in the cartoon, but it's still well done and fits the different tone of this book.

Unfortunately, just as clothes start slipping off, that's when Lori makes her presence known at the window, shouting that Cybersix is a "whore" who's also sleeping with Adrian and that Lucas is being played by both this woman and his best friend. Her mission complete, Lori hops away and we follow her back to Adrian's place, where she hopes to still gain points by revealing this treachery to her "cuckolded" love. Fortunately for us, the figure she finds in his bed is a roaring panther, and she runs away screaming.

Later, Adrian is by himself in the cafe, narration revealing Lucas was pissed and Cybersix had no choice but to play along with it as she still hadn't figured out how to explain the dual identities to him yet. Just as she's wondering what else could go wrong, Lori is pounding at the window, pointing at Adrian and shouting for everyone who can hear that he has sex with animals.

I am... conflicted about this chapter. On the one hand, the sudden romantic stride between Cybersix and Lucas is beautiful, it's great to get an extra window into Lori's life, and it's understandable why they'd want another kink like this thrown in to slow the central relationship down a bit. On the other, it's incredibly humiliating, especially when Lori spends an entire page spewing vile things to a devastated Cybersix in such a vulnerable moment. It's hard to read, and offputting given that it's played more like a comical farce, especially with that final stinger. Again, these creators just aren't aligned to where my taste levels are these days.

Chapter 15

Watching a Rebecca Limon story about the latest in a wave of women butchered by a serial killer, José is impressed and feels they need to add this man to the payroll. Under the guidance of the boy's unparalleled brilliance, the two of them could really be something special. When a Fixed Idea points out they don't know who the killer is, José says he worked that out days ago and is heading out to meet him.

The story picks up with Lori, as she watches an apologetic Adrian try to speak to a still fuming Lucas, who knocks his fellow teacher flat before storming off. Lori genuinely cares, but still feels she did nothing wrong, and that's when Adrian rips into her about how she completely destroyed his personal life (even ratting him out to his landlord) over completely wrong assumptions. Cleverly, he rolls off Cybersix and Data-7 as "my cousin and a harmless mascot I was hosting, a pair of artists on tour who couldn't find a hotel room." With a final shout that he wants nothing to do with her, Adrian storms off, leaving Lori alone.

Her friends are gone and she's not sure where she's wandered to, and she remembers the news stories about the slain women. Hearing some footsteps and taking off, she runs into a funnily-faced man, who draws a knife and starts slashing at her while ranting about how women are the root of all evil and corrupt holy men like himself and how he's on a mission from God etc. She runs, knocking herself out when she runs into someone else. That someone is José.

José presents the unconscious girl to the killer, saying he's a fan and would love to discuss business when the killer's done with work, but the killer doesn't understand, and wanting no witnesses, tries to kill José, too. Which doesn't go over well with the boy, who then steals the knife and stabs the hell out of the man.

Lori comes to, shocked that she's been saved by such a powerful boy. José offhandedly tries to explain both that he wasn't there to save her and that he's not a child, but when she starts laughing him off, he throws her in a dumpster and rapes her.

Yep, I agree. This comic is gross. This volume has some great stuff in it, and I'm glad it was adapted into the cartoon it was, but this book is also just really gross and offputting. And not in a mature, challenging way. It's very juvenile, absolutely exploitative. That style can have its fans - hell, look at the success Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin can have - but it's also a fan group with very little overlap with the type of show we got from the cartoon.

And if any of the unpleasantries from preceding chapters was enough to put anyone off, José raping Lori in a dumpster at their first meeting is pretty much the shit icing on the shit cake, and really threw me off while doing the translation. Worse yet, it's played for laughs, with Lori's confused question of "But you're a baby!" having that last word be what's repeated over and over again as she's thrown into an orgasm, ultimately finding much pleasure in her rape. As José leaves, he tells her she better not tell everyone, then throws in a "See you around some time." Which excites Lori as she cries out with hopeful joy.

And furthermore, this is treated like deserved punishment for Lori. Yeah, she did a really horrible thing in the last issue, but really, Adrian's explosion at her is enough. You can see how emotionally hurt she is and questioning of her own actions. That's great. That's a nice moment for character growth, growth she ultimately did get in the cartoon. But then it keeps going. I'm actually not against the bit of her running into a slasher and getting bizarrely rescued by José, but taking it that extra step they did, it's a punchline that ruins the whole bit, and continues to speak to the tastelessness and lack of consideration on the part of these storytellers.

The book isn't over yet, as now we shift into some bonus material. It's mostly recapping everything we've already read, so I'm confused as to why it's not opening the subsequent volume instead of closing this one. That feels strange.

First, we get a letter Adrian has written to Cybersix, because their personas are apparently so separate she has to use these means to communicate with herself and process her own thoughts. It goes over real life facts about embryonic studies, artificial insemination, and test tube babies as a means to comfort herself that she's not a monster.

Then we get a letter from José to Von Reichter, slyly tearing into his father for how the operation is moving too slowly, Fixed Ideas are too stupid, and how maybe it's time for his father to take a rest and let some fresh intellect take a stab at things. It's a nice reminder of José's gall, and it'll be interesting to see if it leads to any conflict between the two.

Then we wrap things up with a story titled "Meridiana". It's a brisk intro piece to the dank, awful city, showing violence and cruelty (mostly to women), and pointing out how there's monsters around every corner. Serial killers, gangs, genetic creations, Rebecca Limon, ending on José. But there's one hope, the protectors of the city: Cybersix and Data-7.

Which, no, they really aren't. This may change in later volumes, but Cyber is not out on a mission to protect the innocent. She's still fully focused on finding Substance and taking down Von Reichter's organization. This entire chapter is just another exercise in awfulness, almost reveling in how awful it can be, complete with a random "666" in the middle of the title word. The art continues to be very striking, though.

One final note worth pointing out is the opening image (below), which shows a massive, winged demon statue. Looking at the art, it becomes apparent the statue is just on the ledge of the building Cybersix is standing on, but at first glance, it does look like a massive sculpture sitting in the middle of town. It's very reminiscent of the giant angel statue in the cartoon and I wonder if this is where that idea originated.

Ultimately, it's hard to recommend this volume. I certainly don't recommend it to those who enjoy the cartoon and it's not hard to see why there's little overlap in fandom between the two, to the point where all fan attempts to translate the comic have stalled partway through volume 1. It is an interesting book, strikingly drawn, with a nice setup, interesting characters, and some really nice story beats at times. It's also mean, gross, messy, and just not a very enjoyable and entertaining read. It's just so juvenile that it's not hard to place it alongside the other dreck that was comics in the 90s Extreeeme Age. Yes, it's from a different cultural sector of comics at the time, but it's still one visibly influenced by the shared 80s era of Miller, Chaykin, and Moore which led, intentionally or not, to what we got in America in the decade following. It's racist, even as it tries to make comments against racism. It's sexist, even as it tries to explore the character journey of a woman. It's tasteless, even as it tries to paint itself as philosophical and poetic. It's not an awful comic, it just keeps veering down ugly directions which holds down even the good stuff that's in there. I'm surprised it was by people who have been working in the industry for decades by this point, as it feels like a first-time garage band effort by a pair of young, immature rookies. Granted, let's again point to Miller for how time doesn't always improve things.

And I think I'm going to leave it here. The plan was to do a followup post quickly sweeping through the remaining 11 volumes and just seeing what's in them based on the art... but I think I'd rather slowly keep translating through and actually explore them in detail. Despite being disgusted with this book, I am also still curious to see what it grows into over time, and I've seen enough of the following volumes to know there are other elements in there which made it into the cartoon. So expect future Cybersix reviews down the road, most likely between each new series we cover.


Tony Williams said...

- You weren't exaggerating when you said they were pushing the Hitler thing with Jose's look. He almost looks like a Hitler caricature you'd see in an editorial cartoon in an Allied Nation's newspaper.

- Chapter 15 just sounds vile. Darker tones and graphic violence are one thing, but that's just repugnant.

Strannik said...

I commented before about how racist imagery and sexism reminds me of Motherland... And, for a while, I was willing to stand by that. Growing up, a lot of books I read was like that. Heck, forget my childhood - two years ago, I translated a novella by a female Russian author which had its American female protagonist talk about feminine nature and needing a man... There's a reason why, while I'm alright with getting occasional royalty payments for it, I haven't really talked about it all that much.

In any case, because of that, I was inclined to sort of write off this comic's sexism as "it's a different country, they don't know any better." Until it got to rape. I can't bring myself to excuse that, or write it off.

Pharma-Dan said...

Actually all of volume 1 and around half of 2 have been translated. I even still have the blogger page I was using for it up.

Unfortunately life came into play and I haven't been able to do any meaningful work on any of the translation stuff.

On a side note through some torrent sites and a little bit of google magic all of the Italian versions are now out in the wild. You just gotta be sure you get the actual first and second volumes and not just the 3 compilation editions that have 3 random selections of the comic compiled together.

NoelCT said...

Thanks Pharma-Dan. Yeah, I have since gotten the full Italian run of the series. I'd been working off the 12 French omnibuses, but I'm surprised now to see how much material even they cut and rearranged.

Pharma-Dan said...

Likewise. Right now all I think I'm missing is the 4th Special, and then I'll have it all.

Apparently the specials collect the short comics that they started with before the main series. What they used for the first French volume. Though it looks like 4 came a few years later.

I really hope to have the time to work on Cybersix again someday. Are you planning on posting translations of the comic?

NoelCT said...

No, I'm not posting any. As I said in the piece, I'm just using Google to roughly translate transcriptions of the dialogue. Just something good enough to follow the story for the sake of doing writeups. I did put a little more work into the few pages I posted, but I plan to keep them to just 4-5 per post. Good luck to you if you do get back to your translation some day. I am genuinely surprised this series has never seen publication in English in any form. Even with the controversial content, which is really no worse than a typical issue of Heavy Metal or the tamer works of Howard Chaykin.