It’s been almost THREE MONTHS (already?) since I reviewed the first volume of Cave Carson’s adventures, but I FINALLY made the time (between hospital visits to welcome the new grandkid into the world, and trips out of town, and working the late shift) to finish reading the second collection and compose my thoughts on the series sufficiently to put them into words. Will this book hold up to the high bar set by the first collection? Let’s find out! (Thanks again to my daughter, Frankie, for buying me this collection, getting the book SIGNED by the artist, Michael Avon Oeming, and for bringing a new kid into the world for me to corrupt and teach about monsters and ghosts and weird ass shit! [And before you folks get all bent out of shape, BOTH of my daughters turned out just fine, and they grew up with me reading them H.P. Lovecraft stories and having wild art parties in the backyard and all that junk---so calm the Hell down and let me have my fun! Ha!])
[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. 2: Every Me, Every You (2018)
This volume of Cave’s adventures begins with a flashback to that one time when Cave Carson and his crew saved Superman, before returning to the story from the first book (which ended with a somewhat hideous cliffhanger, in which Carson’s cybernetic eye leaps out of his head splashing blood everywhere and, possibly, leaving our hero dead…) Again, I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, because I think this is a fun book that most fans of pulp science fiction or B-Movie adventure films (that starred folks like Doug McClure, Peter Cushing, or Marc Singer---think The Beastmaster or At the Earth’s Core or Yor, Hunter from the Future or Krull…) will probably enjoy. Let’s just stick to my general impressions of the book for now…
The story this time around gets MUCH more psychedelic and trippy, becoming less of a “journey into the hollow earth” tale and much more of a freaky, dimension-hopping, multiple time-lines affair. The artwork is as cartoony as last time, with the brilliant colors provided by Nick Filardi making Michael Avon Oeming’s artwork practically JUMP off the page and smack you in the face! There are monsters and weird-science-tech devices and futuristic vehicles and strange, alien landscapes galore, all presented in colors reminiscent of a San Francisco hippie poster collection. (This part of the book, the LOOK, is brilliant and absolutely top notch.)
However!!!! With the frantic action, psychedelic visuals, and time-space-dimension hopping plot, I found myself getting a bit lost and frequently having to back-track to try to figure out what was happening in the story. The book is fun and exciting, for sure! But I wasn’t always following what I was reading. I reread the book a second time through before writing this review, and it was quite a bit easier to follow the second time than it was the first time, which makes sense, I guess---but overall, I’m really not sure if the issue here is with ME as a reader or with the layout and flow of the book. I am perfectly willing to admit two things about myself: (1.) I have been frazzled lately, so it’s possible that the book is completely comprehensible, and that my mental state might have just been too disjointed to make the work flow when I read the book the first time through. And, (2.) I am an OLD comic reader, and I might just be somewhat unfamiliar with the new visual shorthand that the “kids” are using today. I come from the Kirby era, where a character will be flexing their arms, surrounded by a yellow glow, and some other character will yell, “He’s absorbing the energy! It’s making him stronger!!!” So you knew exactly what was going on. Between the character dialog and text boxes, practically every panel on the page of a Gold or Silver Age comic was clearly explained---sometimes OVER-explained...
What if, perhaps, the newer readers are more sophisticated than I am? Maybe they can follow the visual cues in these newer books and “GET” the plot without needing a text box or exposition dump every other panel to explains what’s going on. And, to be fair, most of the places where I got lost in this story were the “action” panels in which several things seem to be happening in a single conglomerated image. Here’s an example of what I mean:
I’m perfectly happy to admit, this page LOOKS brilliant! I love the STYLISTIC elements and the fantastic, high-contrast COLORS… It’s a great page, visually speaking! There’s this disembodied, villainous voice giving a sinister speech in word balloons drifting across the page, and these weird buggy-eyed zombies that seem to be crawling up between the panels, and the whole thing is frantic and exciting and cool---but I really don’t know what’s happening. There seems to be a flood of those bugging-out-eye creeps coming for our heroes, but are our heroes actually climbing a mountain trying to escape the hordes or is this a symbolic mountain? Cave’s daughter, Chloe, yells to her dad that they are leaving---but aren’t they already leaving? I can't quite grasp the landscape of the scene, and I’m not sure how the character movement is supposed to be working---and I SUSPECT that it’s not important. I SUSPECT that this type of page is using a newer-style visual shorthand. It’s saying (or IMPLYING), “Things are getting crazy. Our heroes are in trouble. They better make a strategic retreat quickly or they’re going to be overwhelmed,” but it’s not stating these things directly. It’s giving us snippets of gunfire, thick patches of zombie eyes, and a bit of exposition, both from the disembodied villain’s speech and from Cave and Chloe. It’s (maybe) the comic equivalent of a movie scene with quick cuts, a shaky camera, and extreme closeups of characters getting battered about. And I really enjoy it---but it’s not a style of comic that I’m used to reading. FOR ME, this is new territory, so it requires a bit more concentration, a bit more WORK to try to interpret what I'm supposed to be taking from the imagery. I noticed this shorthand a bit in the first collection, again primarily during the "fight" scenes---but this book had several scenes in this sort of montage-collage-visual overload style, where the narrative is compressed and expressed in a barrage of images---and I was left wondering what I’d just read…
I hope I’m not painting this in too much of a negative light, because as I said, I’m willing to admit that my frazzled brain might be the point of slippage here. AND, as I hope I’ve made abundantly clear, the visuals---especially the lush colors---are absolutely a treat to look at, and the story itself is also clever, funny, and entertaining---if a bit frantic.
There is some serious “mature reader” material in this book, too, from sexually suggestive aliens to adult language to a bit of splatter gore, but none of this seems out of place in the story. (Even if the weird, sexualized alien bodies were a bit goofy and over-the-top…) I really enjoyed the book, especially on my second read-through when I got what was happening a bit better, and I think it’s a fitting, if unexpected, conclusion to the story that begin in the first collection. From what I can gather, this volume ended the first arc of Cave Carson stories, although there is another collection, called Cave Carson Has an Interstellar Eye (released in 2018) that continues Cave and Chloe’s tale. From what I gathered, the entire Young Animal imprint was put on hold in August of 2018, including Cave Carson’s book, but DC has recently announced that Doom Patrol, at least, is coming back in 2019, along with two more titles---although I haven’t heard what the other two books are going to be, yet. (I could research it, but this review is already getting a bit long!)
So, for now at least, there are three Cave Carson collections for us pulp, sci-fi, adventure fans to enjoy, and the first two books (the only ones I’ve read so far) have been fun, trippy, and endearingly entertaining. I’m not going to say this series is as deep or life changing as The Sandman or Watchmen, but if you’re looking for some fun, psychedelic adventures, with at least one foot in the “mature content” pool, then you could certainly do a lot WORSE than Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye. However, if what you’re looking for is brilliantly colored, imaginative artwork that is stretching the genre, conducting extreme experiments with narrative structure and flow, and seriously threatening the reader with severe retinal burn, then the team of Avon Oeming and Filardi are probably the GUYS TO BEAT at the moment. (Mike Allred is great, too---and I have a Young Animal book that he and his family did to read still...) Either way, this collection is worth a look, especially if you loved the first volume and want to see how the story ends!
Alright! Later skaters! Keep READING!!!!
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
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