Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye #1 re-introduces us to the titular super-spelunker and reveals that his titular eye records everything it sees but that some of the memories are warping. That’s as good a metaphor for this issue as I can think of. Cave Carson, by and large, is familiar, comforting, predictable in its small elements, but its genres and structures blend and react in strange and interesting ways.
One thing that is striking about CCHaCE #1 is the degree to which it’s willing to acknowledge the past. Most obviously there’s an impressive degree of history that is present but not directly raised. It almost feels like we’re back in the pre-Flashpoint days again. But it goes deeper than that.
Rivera and Way write this introduction as if it is a continuation of a life. Just because this is many of our first meeting with Mr. Carson that doesn’t mean that he popped into existence here, especially since some degree of his classic adventures seem to be in play here. Like Shade, the Changing Girl, the weight of previous stories is very present in CCHaCE, though, this time, it may be assuming too much of the readers.
While the structure of this issue is theoretically pretty traditional – establishing character and hardships, introducing support cast and context, and providing a mystery – it keeps an air of spontaneity that is often lost in holding to that format. Part of that is a willingness to not give answers, but it rarely feels like its taunting the reader.
There’s also just a refreshing normalcy about the characters we meet. There’s a decidedly indie vibe about the characters and where in their lives we find them. Despite this, Cave Carson also goes out of its way to remind us that it is part of the DC Universe. People have complained that Rebirth, for all its admirable success, has abandoned the New 52’s valiant attempts to expand DC’s range. This is true, but it seems that Young Animal is picking up the slack, introducing some good old-fashioned super-science and mundane drama back into DC’s offerings.
However, the mundane is exactly that. Some readers will find Cave’s realistic problems dull, while others might feel that a remix of classic tropes is still just an arrangement of the traditional. Perhaps the biggest issue in my view is the fact that Way and Rivera simply can’t make the fantastic threat as interesting as Cave’s simple family drama. Besides strong work put in on establishing Cave’s relationships, the appearance of a Muldroogan late in the issue just lacks the spark one would expect. I read it and think, ‘this is cleverly done, I should like this’, but deep down it doesn’t impress the way the rest of the issue does. Perhaps we need a greater sense of what Cave discovered or maybe some more hints as to what is happening, but the ending leaves me cold, at least compared to what precedes it.
Michael Avon Oeming gives this issue a distinct and unexpected look, with simple lines and thick inks that remind one of production sketches from some cult classic animation. It’s definitely not what you immediately think of when you hear classic Vertigo revival, but it works, for the most part, more than passing the initial tests of ‘does this fit’ and ‘is it pleasing’. Despite the simple, TV-friendly aesthetic, there is just enough of that counter culture bite that Way clearly wants out of Young Animal and some psychedelic effects create an effect that makes you wonder what lies beneath the surface.
It is worth noting that the style actually changes subtly throughout the issue, for better and worse. Oeming clearly possesses a greater range than a first glance might reveal, however, it wouldn’t surprise me if that left some readers confused or preferring one set of pages to another. The strongest pages are probably the ones in Doc Magnus’ office and the weakest are probably Chloe in her apartment, while Cave’s check in at EBX captures the most of that counter-culture energy, culminating in Jeanette’s appearance. I also have to say that, somewhat in keeping with the style, it can be a little tricky to tell characters apart and changes in color and style, not to mention the casual clothes, only make this more difficult.
There are also some oddities that hang around no matter the style. Most notably, for a book about eyes, the ones in CCHaCE are almost all too big and quite a number feel not entirely balanced.
Still, there’s no denying that this team knows how to use a layout. Whether it’s Oeming’s influence on the script or Way and Rivera’s intention, the pages in this book are all considered and pleasing to the eye. Simple panels and clever tricks make for a book that encourages you to actively engage with the gutters.
And, as an additional bonus, Tom Scioli, fresh off of his insane masterpiece, Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, stops in to gift his strange vision to another classic toyline in the first(?) installment of DC Super Powers. Scioli is the obvious choice for such a venture and brings the perfect blend of modern effort, 70s earnestness, and 80s pastel to bear. An impressive one page Gordon/Gordon team-up should be welcome to any fan of Batgirl, but the real draw is a wonderful science-fantasy reimagining of the Wonder Twins.
At once my blindest and most eager purchase from the Young Animal line, Cave Carson doesn’t disappoint, bringing a new grounded and honest hero into DC’s stable. Elegant simplicity and a lack of self-consciousness in the writing make this an enjoyable entry point into Young Animal’s corner of DC, even if the fantastic elements are lacking at this stage. An admirable counterpoint to Shade, the Changing Girl’s mad energy, Cave Carson is a deep breath of fresh air for those looking for something honest and different.