I was raised on X-Men, but when I hit my late teens/young adulthood, I needed something more. Marc Silvestri’s Uncanny X-Men introduced me to hints of X-lives that titillated during my exploration of my own sexuality, but it wasn’t until the bad boys picked up and moved on over to Image Comics that I truly understood what sexy meant. Image Comics and its offshoots were where I truly discovered the seductive power of stiletto heels, dramatically arched backs, bulging muscles, perky nipples, and ribbed metal plating.
Enter: Cyberforce. Steel-ribbed for your pleasure.
Not to be confused with the X-Men Silvestri left behind, despite the obvious similarities, his “Tin Men of War” began in 1992 with a speedy young woman, Velocity, dashing away from C.O.P.S. (Cybernetic Operatives for Protection and Security), also known as S.H.O.C.s (Special Hazardous Operations Cyborgs), led by Velocity’s sister Ballistic. Soon after, we got to meet the whole team of cybernetic superhumans: Heatwave, Stryker, Cyblade, Impact, Ripclaw, and T.I.M.M.I.E. (Totally Independent Mobile Machine Intelligence Experiment). They are former Cyberdata soldiers who turned their back on the evil corporation and now fight to protect other mutants from their cybernetic machinations.
In my misguided youth, as the new century loomed over the horizon, clothing everyone in skintight metal, prefacing everything with “cy” or “cyber,” and including techy acronyms in every other word bubble seemed pretty cool. Fortunately, I matured quickly enough to see beyond these shiny bells and perky whistles, though I still appreciated the way Image Comics centred so many stories on badass female characters and the true female power fantasy.
Over time, the boys of Image—well, most of them—seemed to grow up a little bit too. Silvestri handed the writing reins to Ron Marz and had already passed on the pencils to artists such as David Finch and Pat Lee. Cyberforce deepened its lore with the addition of alien DNA to explain their cybergenetically altered “ultrasapiens.” The team also updated their fashion, shifting away from metal and moving into the world of zippered necklines that had a penchant for coming unzipped mid-battle.
In 2009, the team crossed cybernetic blades with Top Cow’s other cyborg team, the Hunter Killers, in a crossover event written by Mark Waid and with art by Kenneth Rocafort, and have participated in various other crossovers.
To be honest, I’d already left Cyberforce behind by then. Of the major superhero teams that Image introduced me to, WildC.A.T.s was the one that held my interest longer, perhaps because it was quicker to turn its focus away from overly sexified splash pages and start digging deeper into its characters’ psychology and relationships. Cyberforce felt like it was trying too hard to be grown up by playing dress up in its parents’ closet, wearing concepts that it only understood on a superficial level.
Cleavage and cybergenetics aside, at the heart of the super team’s story is a tale of found family and it wasn’t until 2012 that we got to meet the true Cyberforce—ahem—Cyber Force—that is, the Cyber Force story that Marc Silvestri had really wanted to write.
“So Cyber Force is really about family; it’s about grabbing onto what makes us truly unique among living things, our empathy, and the emotional need to be with other humans. We are unique in another way, of course, in that we alone have the desire to both create . . . and destroy. Ironically, those two polar opposites are often one and the same and if Cyber Force is about family, it’s also about what happens when our desire to destroy trumps our desire to create.”
The book was launched through a successful Kickstarter that allowed the first six issues to be distributed free. Long gone are the curves of steel. Their new cyberpunk look was all about gold, spikes, fewer arms, lower waistlines, and jagged edges. Silvestri’s art graces the covers, but Khoi Pham and a few other artists hold the book together over Matt Hawkins’ writing.
Mirroring the original story, this one once again opens with Velocity running for her life from the big bad corporation. Once again, her sister Ballistic is hot on her trail and Ripclaw and the others must save her. This is a darker, grittier story, where the good guys aren’t immediately awesome. Now they are escaped refugees who wrestle with cybernetic implants that eat away at their humanity and their lives. Their dramatic poses and cheesy one-liners come with the weight of their inner and outer struggles. The evil corporation they fight wants to weed out the less fortunate and the obsolete in order to usher in a new era of privilege.
As far as the story goes, it’s much stronger than Silvestri’s original origin for Top Cow’s flagship team, with a few plot and character twists here and there. But it still clings to many of the superhero tropes of the ’90s, and resolutions that generally always involve things exploding.
We expected to see Cyber Force make a grand re-entry during last year’s Image 25th anniversary reboots and relaunches, but it seems Silvestri has saved his best baby for last with a new #1 set to hit the stands in March. Silvestri’s cover for the latest addition holds on to the golden aesthetics, but lightens up on the spikiness. Based on the cover alone, I expect a lot of gritty intensity. This is a welcome change from the ballooning breasts, bare midriffs, and bulging muscles that used to dominate Image. Velocity even gets to wear a stylish jacket! Bonus points for the running shoes concept, which featured prominently in her solo title. Imagine a speedster whose feet and metabolism are actually addressed in comics canon!
Written by Matt Hawkins and Bryan Hill, with pencils by Atilio Rojo, the description implies that it will pick up some of the pieces from its previous rebirth:
“TO PROTECT THE FUTURE, WHAT WILL WE BECOME? The classic series returns in a reimagining overseen by creator MARC SILVESTRI. In a modern world where humanity is defined by the technology it creates, a terrorist strikes at the heart of human progress. One of the few survivors of the attack is a man named Morgan Stryker. Mortally wounded, Stryker’s life is saved by his employers . . . but the price could be his humanity itself.”
Hawkins was always been fascinated by the transhumanism of these “ultrasapiens” and his first pitch to Top Cow was set in the original universe. Now he intends to explore that transhumanism on a deeper level.
“We’re a species using technology to ‘perfect’ ourselves, but in what image?” he asks on the Top Cow website. “What happens when evolution stops being a natural process and becomes a mechanized one? What is the future of this new humanity? I hope to engage these ideas in CYBER FORCE . . . and blow a lot of things apart in flame and steel.”
Silvestri’s Cyber Force continues to evolve with each rebirth, exploring a future that began with acronyms and ribbed steel and has moved on to deeper and darker things. Perhaps it’s time for me to revisit the tin men to see how far they’ve come.