“Read a Damn Book – 139: Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye Vol. 1: Going Underground”
Here is another book recommended by my older daughter, Frankie. Frankie and I even got the chance to meet one of the authors of this book (Jon Rivera) at last year's I Like Comic Con, and he was cool and engaging. (I’ll try to make sure my positive opinion of the writer doesn’t affect my review of the comic!) Anyway, thanks to my younger daughter, Elise, for buying this book for me for Christmas and to Frankie for suggesting that I read it!!!
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual book that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]
Jon Rivera, Gerard Way, Michael Avon Oeming, and Nick Filardi – Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye Vol. 1: Going Underground (2017)
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye is one of the titles piloted by Gerard Way (who is also the lead singer of the band, My Chemical Romance,) for his “weird” imprint that he co-created for DC, called YOUNG ANIMAL. (According to Wikipedia, the imprint is currently “on hold,” which is a shame. I HOPE it comes back!) The point of the imprint was to create a more experimental line of books (which borrowed a bit from the ground-breaking Vertigo line) for mature readers.
This title was based on an obscure character from the 1960s, who appeared in comics like Brave & Bold and Showcase, but who never got his own title. Gerard Way, in a quick note at the end of this collection, says he was interested in the character precisely because so little was known about him, including where and how he got his “cybernetic eye.” Carson was an underground explorer, in the sense that he drove a “drill machine” type vehicle and explored under the Earth, finding rare minerals and lost civilizations and such. (It’s territory that will be familiar to readers of classic pulp titles and early science fiction classics, like Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth or Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s The Coming Race, and even horrible B-Movie drive-in films, like At the Earth’s Core---which is one of my favorite bad movies!)
The premise of this book is that Carson, who has been retired for many years, and whose wife has recently died, is suddenly thrown back into adventuring when he is visited by a citizen of an underground civilization, who seems to be trying to warn Carson about some trouble, but who suddenly transforms into a strange, grotesque creature and attacks Carson, instead. In addition, Cave's daughter is almost abducted by a weird cult, who Cave thinks probably has something to do with the monster that tried to kill him. Carson, along with his daughter, Chloe, and a humorous socio-path named Wild Dog, all head back underground to try to figure out what’s gone wrong in the world below.
The story is fast paced, has a lot of humor to it, and feels like a golden age pulp adventure, which I really enjoy. The artwork is also great, mixing cartoony, stylized figures with odd, expressionistic backgrounds (it reminds me, a bit, of Batman: The Animated Series, or maybe a slightly more serious Teen Titans Go!), but it also has a fantastic psychedelic aspect, as you can see in images like this:
For some context, Carson’s cybernetic eye is constantly scanning everything and loading the information directly into his brain---but it has started to “malfunction,” showing him “ghosts” and messing with his head. Michael Avon Oeming's art, coupled with Nick Filardi’s lush colors, really highlight this trippy, psychedelic, insane element of the tale, which (even though it’s horrifying to Cave) is WONDERFUL for us folks who love the weird, brilliantly colored visuals!
I’m trying not to give away too much of the story because I really do recommend giving this one a read, if you’re a fan of science-fiction or pulp adventure stories, but I will say that it's a quick read---I read it twice before writing the review---and it definitely makes me want to crack into Vol. 2 (which Frankie already bought for me a week or two ago!!! AND she got Michael Avon Oeming to sign the book! Wooo!!!) Going Underground also includes a bunch of extras, like character sheets for the main players in the book, Gerard Way’s piece about starting the Young Animal line, and even some cool, faux-Golden Age, absurdist comic stories (by Tom Scioli) at the end of the book, starring characters, like The Wonder Twins (who you MIGHT remember from the Super Friends t.v. show, maybe…) and a bunch of other familiar faces… These weird stories that Scioli tells are freakish and add to the overall tone that the book is playing with, giving a modern twist to a number of classic comic concepts.
The book does have some serious violence in it, even a few scenes that might qualify as “gore,” although it’s not as disturbingly presented as the violence is in From Hell---but that’s a good thing. (Eddie Campbell seriously freaked me out with that book.) There’s also some naughty words here and there, a bit of cartoon nudity (nothing sexually explicit, but definitely some nakedness), and a number of disturbing, nightmarish images. The Young Animal line was meant for mature readers, and although the artwork in this book is a bit cartoony (in a good way), the content is definitely NOT for kids (meaning that kids would probably LOVE IT!) Overall, this is a fun, fast paced, action-adventure story for mature readers, with a solid foot in the humor camp, and some wonderful, trippy art thrown for spice! AND if this book is any indication of what a Young Animal title is like, I’m going to have to explore more of these comics in the near future!
Okay, that’s enough for now! More reviews coming soon!!!
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
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