Growing up in the UK, summer specials were a thing – tabloid-sized editions of our weekly favourites on super-shiny paper, all in colour for 25p… back then full-colour was reserved for only a few pages in the likes of the Beano, Dandy and Bunty. I loved them, so I couldn’t resist this seasonal special.
And ‘cybernetic’? Random, but DC does like to theme its giant anthologies. Mind, while the likes of Robotman, Red Tornado and the Metal Men are featured here, it’s stretching it to say a Booster Gold and Blue Beetle tale that happens to feature Skeets, or a Midnighter and Apollo story in which the Brain has a tiny role, really hits the theme, but hey, they’re fun diversions.
The book opens with a Batman story – of course it does – which has him facing ‘my greatest mistake’, Brother Eye. That’s the artificial intelligence created by Bats to spy on his fellow heroes after they mind-wiped him… Hero and A.I. fight across eight pages in a tale written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman and illustrated by Hardman and colourist Mike Spicer. It’s a well-crafted story but I honestly do hate Brother Eye, it’s just the Construct and the Kilg%re with the Emerald Eye’s annoying speech tic. And every time a writer reminds me that a lot of people people died as a direct result of Batman inventing Brother Eye, I get very uncomfortable. Still, we do get this lovely summery scene…
Platinum is having a nice day at the beach but where have the other Metal Men got to? Just as she finds out, a certain Amazing Amazon arrives.
This is a nice slice of nonsense, properly summery – none of that ‘Batman doesn’t get summer’ malarkey here – and with a surprise villain. OK, he’s another of my unfavourites, but he makes sense. and how wonderful that Diana and Platinum, who were both drawn for a long time by the great team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, are fans of one another! So it’s a big old ‘well done’ to writer Andrew Constant, artist Nicola Scott – her classic Metal Men stylings are spot on – and colourist Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Comic co-dependents Booster Gold and Blue Beetle are ‘The Boys of Summer’ in a very silly time-twisting tale. Michael and Ted want nothing more than a quiet day at the beach, but the space they’re after is rapidly filled by alternate versions of themselves.
The gags just keep on coming courtesy of writer Heath Corson and artist Scott Koblish, with my favourite involving Booster’s bijou time bubble. I especially like the future Ted and Michael looks, and how regular Ted is drawn like Reggie from Archie. This is the story that should have kicked off the book, setting a silly, summery tone.
The next entry stars Mercury Flash, who you will remember… do you remember? I don’t recall this robotic speedster at all but apparently he’s from Earth 44. He’s the finalist against our very own Barry Allen in the annual Fastest Flash in the Multiverse contest.
And he’s pretty horrible, meaning I didn’t enjoy him getting so much page time. Just look at all those fun Flash types in the stands, from Fastback to Lia from the Tangent Universe, and we’re stuck with a bad-tempered bucket of bolts. Which is, of course, the point, Barry has to win him over, but still… then again, I’ve never enjoyed stories where the Flash is racing another hero – usually Superman, as acknowledged here – so this was never going to be my favourite. It’s nevertheless a decent, good-looking read from writer Josh Williamson and artist David Lafuente.
The big draw for me with this comic is the inclusion of a Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes story billed as ‘A Silver Age Tale’. There’s no Watcher type explaining DC’s multiverse, no character from current canon going back to observe events… nope, this is ‘just’ a story featuring the pre-Crisis characters. And a lovely little story it is too, being a bittersweet tale of a Superboy robot finding that there’s more to artificial life than hanging around the Kent cellar waiting to be sent out to cover for his ‘master’.
Writer Liz Erickson – a DC editor by day – and artist Nik Virella capture that old Adventure Comics vibe – I’m surprised we don’t get that classic phrase ‘How ironic (choke)’ in the final panel! If colourist Fajardo had eschewed modern production techniques for a look that recalled old-fashioned four-colour comics, this would have been perfect. As it is, it’s a poignant, gorgeously illustrated argument for DC giving us new stories from old continuities.
Midnight and Apollo, unlike Booster and Beetle, don’t mind being on a crowded beach. They don’t mind having to interrupt their holiday to save the crew of a floating prison from Monsieur Mallah. They do mind that the hairy horror would happily kill them.
There’s a happy ending of sorts to Steve Orlando, Paul Pelletier and Norm Rapmund’s witty, action-packed piece, and I love that Midnighter can’t stop flirting even though Mallah’s not necessarily a gay-rilla. Also, great trunks!
There’s summer spirit to spare as Harley Quinn does her level best to give pal Cy Borgman (geddit?) a nice day out. Writer Che Grayson delivers a peppy script, her Harley extremely engaging, while Marguerite Sauvage’s illustrations are the visual equivalent of tutti frutti ice cream – heck, the opening image of Harley required by Grayson’s script is worth the price of admission. Christy Sawyer’s animated lettering adds to the fun.
Robotman and his best pal Mike – just go with it! – get to walk a mile in one another’s shoes in a bonkers fun story from Max Bemis and Greg Smallwood. Who knew DC’s more irregular individuals socialised?
From the delightful introductory panel to the final image, this is sheer delight.
There’s more madness as Cyborg and Superman are challenged by… the Cyborg Superman – and you won’t believe who turns up to act as peacemaker.
A slight twist towards the end irked me, but writer Stuart Moore and artist Cully Hamner then got me right back onside with the perfect counter to that reveal.
Did I miss anything? Only my favourite story! Red Tornado, wife Kathy and daughter Traya are on a supposedly relaxing trip but Justice League business keeps getting in the way.
When Traya wanders off and meets someone big, green and pretty darn extraterrestrial, Reddy realises he has his priorities wrong. I’ve always liked RT, and it’s a shame we see him so rarely – Kathy and Traya even less – and this is a great showcase. We see his wonderfully visual powers at full force and are reminded that despite his android make-up, he’s the most human of heroes. This strip – a tight eight pages like every other entry in this book – has a ridiculous amount of heart, thanks to writer Stephanie Phillips, illustrator Leila del Duca and colour artist Jordie Bellaire.
I’ve not mentioned all the letterers and colourists, but they and the various editors are all much appreciated for their talents. Thanks, too, to Darran Robinson for the attractive publication design, from the excellent masthead to the stylish intro and outro pages. As for the witty cover image by the splendid Dan Mora and cracking colourist Tamra Bonvillain, it’s a hoot… hopefully, DC already have them working on a Christmas special cover.
Heck, I’d happily see Holiday shorts from everyone involved in this giant issue, there’s not a single stone in the sandshoe – DC Cybernetic Summer is a real ray of sunshine on the comic racks.