Part of my fascination with body horror is the opportunity to see the normalized human body in an entirely new context. In 2014’s Robocop remake, my favorite scene was unquestionably the one where Robocop gets the opportunity to see what little remains of his original organic body. His repeated “OMG’s” in this scene as robotic appendages are removed created one of the most unsettling moments for me in recent memory as it reminded us me how closely we associate our identities to the bodies we occupy, and how a life without that body may not seem worth living, even one where you had super strength, and were bullet proof. Cognetic taps into a fear on par with that one for me, the possibility of unknowingly losing my life to a force humanity has not even imagined, and creators James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan pull it off marvelously, even including a bit of inspired body horror along the way. Not content with starting out where issue one ended, this one begins at the dawn of civilization as a giant sentient brain-like being is forced out of its spaceship, and connects its tendrils to some early humans that stumble across it. Given a glimpse of the universe in a vision, they come out of their vision unsure of what to make about what they’ve just seen, and instead use the opportunity to make a meal of the visiting alien being, which seems to have endowed the people who ate it with unspecified extra sensory abilities. Things pick back up at the present as we learn about Annie and last issue’s super powered antagonist’s connection to this first scene, and their shared history since. From there, things quickly accelerate as Annie fights for her life and that of every human in New York City, tries to dissuade her wife from joining her, and makes a compromise she swore she never would again. It all builds to global stakes that are both epic and well-earned.
The sheer level of action in this issue is astonishing, but it only works because Tynion ensures that we’re just as invested in Annie’s personal stake in the conflict than in her desire to seek revenge against the being she calls her brother. Using text messaging, Tynion gives us the opportunity to see as Annie communicates with her wife Mel as circumstances make it impossible for her to them to talk. What emerges through these texts is the depth to which Annie cares for Mel, prioritizing Mel and their child’s safety of the opportunity to potentially see them one more time before all goes to shit. And Tynion does this without making Mel into a submissive character, showing us how assertive she is in equally wanting to protect Annie and unite their family. Rather than detracting from the main conflict, their relationship gave Annie’s choices in the main conflict an added weight as I recognized that Annie was likely sacrificing her relationship with Mel based off her decisions this issue.
Most fittingly categorized as a sibling rivalry, Annie and her brother have been at a philosophical stalemate for quite some time. Annie has reformed from past behavior she’s no longer engaged in, and her brother seeks nothing more than her assistance in taking over the world by expanding each of their hive mind networks throughout ever sentient being on the planet, and provide themselves the opportunity to go beyond even the Earth. It’s an ambition that seems entirely doable given what the being has achieved since his arrival on the Empire State Building only a day or two before. His total apathy towards humanity provides a great contrast to Annie who puts everything on the line to save beings she formally regarded as lesser life forms. Watching how the two differently regard the lives they take is really interesting, and I’m curious to see the toll Annie’s action take on her personality as she’s forced to compromise more of her own humanity to fight her brother.
Donovan make Annie’s brother an intimidating villain through imagery that’s not exactly gory, but horrific just the same. Through innovative use of the brother’s ability to use several bodies simultaneously, Donovan transforms the brother into a human chain of interlaced people that move together. With this, Donovan creates attacking tendrils, a throne, and launchpads that send individuals after incoming helicopters. Paired with some great facial work, Donovan makes the brother into a sickening character who’s final appearance in this issue leaves us with a very creepy image despite its initial innocent look.
Other than the issue where some design choices confused me (Annie’s eyes and the font of her dialogue are red, but her the font of her text messages is blue), this issue had very little that wasn’t working towards creating a pretty captivating story. It seems too soon for this comic to come to an end next month, but with the amount of story Tynion and Donovan put into this issue it’ll undoubtedly go to some strange and unpredictable places.
Writer: James Tynion IV Artist: Eryk Donovan Colorist: Juan Manuel Tumburús Letterist: Steve Wands Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 11/18/15 Format: Mini-Series, Print/Digital