I’m a sucker for anthologies and the various robots of the DC universe, so I was naturally very excited to check out the DC Cybernetic Summer special. This 80-page giant features 10 stories from a variety of creative teams. Most of these fall squarely out of continuity, so it’s an enjoyable read for anyone looking for something fun to pick up this week. Let’s take a look at each story and call out some of the high points, shall we?
“The Limits of Control” is written by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman and it plays out like Richard Stanley’s Hardware starring Batman. In other words, it’s totally rad. The plot is pretty simple, but the action is tense and the grim ending totally sticks the landing. Also, the artwork and colors Gabriel Hardman and Mike Spicer really make this story feel super gritty and dark, like something out of 2000 A.D. Meanwhile, Travis Lanham’s lettering is appropriately creepy, given that the story involves Brother Eye. It’s a great story to kick off the collection.
“Fandom” gives us a fun girl power team-up between Wonder Woman and Platinum. Nicola Scott gives us some expressive faces that really sells the excitement the characters have at teaming up for the first time. Also, color is all-important in a Metal Men story, so luckily Romulo Fajardo Jr. crushes in that regard! The story ends on a bit of a punchline without much in the way of resolution, but it’s still pretty cute.
“Summer Camp” might be the most wholesome story of the bunch. Stephanie Phillips brings some sweet humanity to Red Tornado, showing us the rare sight of the superhero during his downtime. It has a real feel-good ending that I appreciated, particularly since so many Red Tornado stories tend to have more of an existential bent to it.
“The Boys of Summer” is the funniest story of the bunch, thanks to Heath Corson’s script constantly upping the stakes and the absurdity of Beetle and Booster’s actions, as well as Scott Koblish’s hilarious designs for the alternate timeline versions of the heroes. There are also tons of clever visual gags in the background (Old Skeets’ “walker” really got me).
“Speedster Games” was a simple story that works even if you’re not familiar with the many alternate universe versions of the Flash present in the tale. It also shows why Barry Allen is THE Flash for so many people. There’s a nice mix of art styles throughout, with characters like Earth-42 Flash somehow blending into their more “realistic” surroundings perfectly.
“Summer Lovin'” is a well-told story. Some of the specifics about how the extraterrestrial threat of the story works are vague, but the emotional components really worked for me. The dialogue is cute and clever and although I saw the twist coming from the first few pages, it still felt strong. Nik Verella nails the retro look of Smallville, Superboy, and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
“Out There” was the story I most looked forward to in this collection, and it did not disappoint. As Steve Orlando’s last dance with Midnighter and Apollo. Making love the focus of the story felt just right for these characters, and the resolution made me so happy to see. The acton is exciting and the banter between the characters feels like Orlando never missed a beat in writing them. Also, that final line is fantastic.
“Splash Splash Special” is a cute story that unfortunately seems to meander a little bit in the middle. The ending just kind of comes out of nowhere, but it does show the sweeter side of Harley and Sy’s friendship. Marguerite Sauvage is clearly having a good time illustrating the pair in such a festive setting, which leads to some fun visual gags. Also, it features a quick reference to one of my favorite viral videos of all time, so there’s that!
“Summer Bummer” is writer Max Bemis’ first work for DC Comics and after this, I would quite enjoy seeing what else he can do with Cliff Steele. Robotman has always been a high-key demo kid, so I greatly enjoyed seeing someone gently calling him out on it. The message of the story is super endearing and the meta touches throughout got a chuckle out of me. The story ends with the kind of touch that only a fan could provide.
“Catfish Crisis” is an odd story to end the collection on. It starts off pretty serious, but quickly becomes goofy and self-referential. Some of the jokes really land in the middle of the story, but the short as a whole doesn’t really hang together. The ending in particular feels rushed and nonsensical. Still, I get the feeling that I’m going to be giggling about the name “Super Cyborg Cyborg Superman” for a while.
DC Cybernetic Summer is a fun time, with more hits than misses. Even the stories that I didn’t completely love aren’t really bad, just a little undercooked. If you’re looking for a fun anthology that mostly doesn’t take its heroes entirely seriously, check this one out.