Written by Alisha Weinberger
DC’s “Young Animal” imprint rolls out its third title, once again connecting a generation of new readers with characters lost to the dark, bizarre corners of the DC Universe. Cave Carson, Jack Kirby’s super spelunker of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s would seem an appropriate choice. But Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye falls short in making a forgotten hero sympathetic to readers who have no connection to his past.
Cave Carson debuted on the eve of boyish action, sci-fi cartoons like Johnny Quest in DC titles such as Brave and the Bold or Challengers of the Unknown. But the groovy cave diver never had his own title or ongoing series. So far, out of Young Animal’s Doom Patrol and Shade the Changing Girl, this is the most obscure hero. In a way this may be a positive as it allows a flexibility in canon; Gerard Way could completely rewrite the character, add a new chapter to his life, or give him powers he never had before. To some extent he does. Carson now has a cybernetic eye, which can scan and analyse everything in his surroundings. Useful to a geologist who comes into contact with subterranean civilizations and their alien minerals and technology (from which his eye came). But the book doesn’t open with any fantastical landscapes. Instead, a funeral; Carson’s wife dead and his now grown daughter slowly becoming estranged. To make matters worse, his mysterious eye is pumping out hallucinations of his wife and grotesque perversions of past memories. The issue tries to establish Carson as a broken man. A once great hero and icon of masculinity and adventure left alone and aging. But Way just misses the mark, partly due to the book’s overall flow.
Although packed with nearly 29 pages, Way doesn’t use this space to its fullest advantage. It opens on a slow burn and intensive dialogue, which is absolutely fine. However, it doesn’t establish a reason for us to care for Carson. He moves to quickly away from the character’s history;Vital for a hero so obscure to current readers. Carson is a broken man trying to get back into the super science game. What should be taking place over a few weeks feels packed into a single day or two. It simply shifts gears from slow to fast too awkwardly. There are excess panels that are unnecessary to the plot and could have be utilized for better narrative flow, like creating an emotional connection to Carson and his lost wife.
This is not entirely the fault of the writer. The artwork is colorful and psychedelic, with stimulating panel composition. Even the gutter space is full of neons and tye dyes. But the character design is inconsistent. This isn’t to suggest it was poorly drawn, but it seems the book can’t decide what style it wants to be. One page will have the characters looking very squat, cartoonish (like a puppet from the Thunderbirds) but another page will have them more proportionally accurate. A small detail but very distracting from the book’s somber tone.
Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye isn’t the most action packed or enthralling. Starting slow and packing all the action and plot in towards the very end. But conceptually alone, a hero turned widower makes for an interesting idea, it’s just Cave Carson might be too obscure of a hero to capture the hearts of new readers. There is, however, a brutal fight between the spelunker and a Cronenberg monster that may be worth the read through. The art, although worth it for its vibrant array of colors and page layout, is distractingly inconsistent. Readers shouldn’t necessarily rush to this premier issue right away, unless they’re already fans of the character. Although heavy with content, it still may be worth the wait to pick this issue up with issue #2, as the plot doesn’t gain steam until the end. Way and his Young Animal gives us another weird gem to keep an eye, but not enough to purchase right away.