Meet 009. He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s a cyborg. And he doesn’t know who he is or how he ended up this way.
That’s the basic premise behind Cyborg 009. Writers F.J. DeSanto and Bradley Cramp, along with artist Marcus To, have set out to reimagine Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic, unfinished manga. The preview released by Archaia this week, labeled “Chapter 000,” introduces the character, his “siblings,” and what appears to be the central conflict of the book, and it does it all in seventeen action-packed – and remarkably self-contained – pages.
DeSanto and Cramp expertly bring the reader into the story immediately. Beginning with a few silent panels of hazy memory, they jolt the reader ‘awake’ along with 009. Things move very quickly from there, with a lot of exposition relayed organically and in a short amount of time. The feeling of ‘information overload’ is by design, as 009 is as clueless to what’s going on as the reader. It makes him the perfect gateway into the story and gives the reader someone to relate and get attached to immediately.
Artist To’s style on this book is reminiscent of classic manga, while still being modern and having a western feel to it. To is working from designs by original series creator Ishinomori. He manages to update the looks of the characters without moving completely away from the original designs. The colors by Ian Herring also go a long way towards bringing the look of the story into the 21st century. Together they give the story’s action sequences a palpable energy that, along with the mystery of 009’s situation, propels things forward at a break-neck pace.
If there’s a weakness to this preview chapter, it’s in some of the dialogue. Our hero’s name is 009, so it stands to reason that there are eight more like him, and sure enough he meets them. They’re all from different countries, which is surely hard to get across in dialogue without resorting to writing things phonetically. DeSanto and Cramp are wise to not resort to that, but the way in which they do relay the nationalities of the characters – by having each of them say a word or phrase in their native language – is still a little bit clunky. The first time it occurs might be enough to take the reader out of the story, since it’s never mentioned before then that this group of eight is an international one. Once it happens again, though, it starts to make sense, but it’s still a little jarring. That’s a fairly minor quibble, ultimately.
In addition to the seventeen pages of story, there’s some interesting back matter in this comic. A five-page interview with co-writer DeSanto provides some background on the history of Cyborg 009 and Shotaro Ishinomori, as well as details on how DeSanto came to be involved in the project and what the plans are for it. Another text piece provides even more detail about Ishinomori, and four pages of the creator’s original artwork from the series finish out the issue. At only a dollar for all of this content, it’s a great value.
In all, Chapter 000 of Cyborg 009 is an extremely effective teaser for the coming full-length graphic novel. It’s a pretty solid standalone story, and it sets up the characters and conflicts to the point that it’s easy to imagine further stories. If the quality of this preview is any indication, Cyborg 009 is a book not to miss.