Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1
Written by Gerard Way and Jon Rivera
Art by Michael Avon Oeming
Lettering by Clem Robins
Published by DC Comics/Young Animal
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Cave Carson has a job. Cave Carson has a family. Cave Carson has a past. Cave Carson has depression. Cave Carson has visions.
And it’s all because Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye.
With a title that seems mined from DC’s wild Silver Age rather than any natural mineral or material, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye is a slower, moodier character piece when compared to Young Animal’s flagship title, Doom Patrol. While it lacks the fireworks of Casey Brinke and Robotman, Cave Carson has the potential for some true emotional depth, as its obscure lead character struggles with the ghosts of his pasts (and the ghosts of his mysterious, enigmatic eye) - that is, if it can overcome its pacing and structural issues first.
Whereas Doom Patrol is a series that’s all about frenetic forward movement, Cave Carson is a much gloomier, intimate affair - years after his heyday as an adventuring subterranean pulp explorer, Calvin Carson now struggles to crawl out of the cave-in that has become his life. His wife has passed away, his daughter Chloe has moved on to college, and now both Carsons seem dazed and distraught over their family’s seismic shift. Writer Gerard Way, teaming up with co-writer Jon Rivera and artist Michael Avon Oeming, uses the secrets of the cybernetic eye to allude to something far more personal and real - who’s to say your life, your very perception of the world, doesn’t change with age, with change, with real and profound loss? Cave Carson’s mysterious eye might have its own glitches, but it’s ultimately stylistic window dressing to the true mid-life crisis that this newly single empty nester is forced to grapple with. Cave’s crisis, in many ways, is our own - and who’s to say if it’s more merciful that we, at least, get to see his coming from a mile away?
But instead of channeling the sort of has-been depression that helped characterize his Eisner-winning Umbrella Academy, Way and Rivera trip over the structure of Cave Carson’s storytelling, keeping the narrative from really coalescing with a solid stance about its lead. Throwing in guest stars such as Doc Magnus and the Metal Men or even the deep cut of Wild Dog, it all feels a bit premature, and not in the kind of “organized chaos” that a team book like Doom Patrol would organically afford. In other words, we get an in-depth tour of Cave Carson’s world before we even get settled with Cave as a person, and without that foundation of characterization - or at least the kind of in-your-face spectacle that can distract you from caring at this juncture - poor Cave is in danger of becoming exactly what he fears most: alone and forgotten.
Yet Young Animal’s books are also known for their eclectic artistic sensibilities, and in that regard, having Michael Avon Oeming on this book is a solid pick. While his angular, cartoony style doesn’t come across quite as polished as Nick Derington’s Doom Patrol art, Oeming’s visuals help keep Cave Carson from becoming oppressively gloomy, and as Cave has churning, multicolored visions, it’s clear that Oeming has the imagination to make this trippy premise work. In certain ways, Oeming’s work feels like a cross between Bruce Timm and Jack Kirby, and when the action does finally kick in - complete with a florescent green fountain of alien blood - you might be joining Cave as he says, “Jesus Christ.” That coloring, by Nick Filardi, makes Oeming's characters pop while still maintaining the somber atmosphere of the book - and this might be in keeping with Way’s aesthetic as the ringleader of the Young Animal line, but I love the half-tone dots Oeming throws into his pages, almost creeping up on Cave and the viewer alike.
Like its name might imply, Young Animal is still a new entity over at DC Comics, and it’d be unfair (and silly) to expect its lineup to adhere to a rigid similarity in tone or content. The whole reason for an imprint is to push boundaries, to see how far you can take different books while still maintaining a common thread across the line. Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye feels like the lo-fi cousin of the overachieving Doom Patrol, but I get the sense that it’s more of a case of a later bloomer rather than not having anything to contribute to the table at all. If Way and Rivera can find their focus and really give us more of a spotlight on their enigmatic hero, we might be in for a real showstopper.