I’ve never been a fan of ‘manga’ so I’m not sure what drew me to this particular book. Perhaps it’s because it’s not quite ‘manga’ but it definitely has hints of the manga-style of artwork. And yet it’s not completely that manga-style. This is hard to define, and I suspect that’s what’s drawn me in.
Cyborg 009 is actually a re-boot of a comic by Shotaro Ishinomori from the 1960’s (which had what I consider the typical ‘manga’ look) with a more ‘modern’ look to the artwork and story-telling. This is a very attractively illustrated book. The art (by Marcus To and Ian Herring) really is a beautiful homage to the original works while managing to be contemporary in appearance.
The story (by F. J. DeSanto and Bradley Cramp) is a bit simplistic — a very sappy, 1960’s sci-fi romanticism: Joe wakes up on an operating table to discover that he is a cyborg. Number 009. His first assigned task is to destroy all the attempted cyborgs before him (001-008). Unfortunately, those other cyborgs have banded together and kidnap Joe and help him find the human part of himself. Of course we discover that the cyborgs are ‘good’ but the reason for their creation is evil, so a battle is likely. And somehow, despite Joe’s so recent awakening and task, there are already other cyborgs being created to combat the first nine.
There is a strong internal struggle, in the writing, with an adolescent simplicity of characters: we have a stereotyped variety of cultures trying to be represented, and a relationship triangle that is hinted at but not defined on either side (boy likes girl ‘A’, girl ‘A’ ignores boy, girl ‘B’ likes boy, boy doesn’t seem to notice girl ‘B’s’ interest). This has a great sense of a 1960’s innocence that feels almost quaint today.
It also amazes me that no one ever questions the obvious… if the cyborgs are created to be soldiers, why do they all have different capabilities. Is it not possible to be fast and strong and shoot rockets and flame? Why does everyone have to have a different capability? Of course it makes for more interesting story-telling and the need for a team to work together, but it doesn’t make practical sense.
Although relatively simple, the themes of understanding what it means to be human, to love, and to fear, as well as the greater theme of good versus evil, are all nicely delivered.
Although I can’t say that I’m hooked on reading more Cyborg 009 stories, I will say that I really enjoyed my diversion here.
Looking for a good book? This re-booted graphic novel has wonderful art and a sweet, well-told story.
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authors: F.J. DeSanto, Bradley Cramp, Shotaro Ishinomori
artists: Marcus To, Ian Herring
hardcover, 120 pages