By Patrick Larose
Cave Carson was never meant to be a superhero.
When he was created in 1960 for DC Comics, he was molded to fit a pulp fiction archetype that didn’t fight crime and didn’t have super powers. Cave Carson was an adventurer.
Carson had only his own intelligence and technology as he led a group spelunking into the unknown worlds that lay just beneath the surface of the Earth. They were stories created from the space-age dreams of the era—where human ingenuity, not beings from another world, would push the limits of our understanding and the places we could go.
The space-age dream world, however, died with the space race and led to the crushing realization thereafter that we would never move past the moon.
There have been a few stories in the past that examined these science fiction artefacts through contrast to the cynical reality. They’re typically torn to shreds but rather than a sharp-witted deconstruction like the Venture Brothers, Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye serves as a solemn funeral for a possible reality that passed us by.
This also just happens to be where this comic’s story starts.
Cave’s lost his wife. His daughter’s left for college and his company is moving on without him. The sci-fi daydream of the past even plays in black-and-white on old VCR tapes and there’s this overwhelming and very human sense of ennui that hangs over the issue. Cave Carson hasn’t lost everything for his troubles, however. Cave now has a single mysterious and cybernetic eye.
Gerard Way, first with Doom Patrol and now with this, has proven himself a writer at home with the Vertigo sensibilities. Jon Rivera and Way here especially reveal themselves as successors in a way to what Grant Morrison was doing when he first came to DC.
Cave Carson is a relic to a brand of science fiction that doesn’t exist anymore and maybe shouldn’t exist anymore. There’s deliberate decision then that as a character he exists as someone that the world’s moved on from. The book feels personal and even lamenting of how things change, what they change into and how we adapt and move with that change. Carson, as a character here, isn’t a relic. He doesn’t feel outdated.
This is a story about a real man in mourning, for both a person and existential loss. His wife, his partner in science, is passed. His daughter moved away and while the company he helped make still trains new people to spelunk into the dark unknown below the surface, he isn’t a part of it.
The cybernetic eye almost works as magical realism here. As he’s displaced, the reality around mirrors this as he slips into psychedelic hallucinations of his former life and the monsters that crept in the shadows
This sense of displacement feels especially heightened with Oeming’s art. There’s an almost Saturday morning cartoon simplicity to it that when paired with the subject matter, makes it feel like someone’s switched the script to a different story.
This works because it’s true. Cave Carson is a man of the underground now brought to the surface. A product of one era now living in another.
There’s an undercurrent in this issue of a person desperate to find a new place of belonging after the old one falls out from under them. That alone lends Cave Johnson Has a Cybernetic Eyes promise to become the most psychologically rich comic coming out right now, be it a big publisher or small.
There’s something under the surface here, something strange and dark underneath the dirt.
Come rot with us.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye #1
Writer: Jon Rivera and Gerard Way
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: DC Comics