Written by Jon Rivera, with art by Michael Avon Oeming, and colors by Nick Filardi, Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye would have ordinarily been one of the weirdest titles coming out in 2016/2017, but since it stands alongside other Young Animal imprint books like the revival of Doom Patrol, and Shade the Changing Girl, it shares that honor with other titles.
[Variant cover by Mitch Gerads]
Now in its fifth issue, the comic is really gathering steam in the strange explorations a character like “Cave” Carson might easily provoke–in this case returning to the subterranean world that his wife originally hailed from following her death, and toting along his teenage daughter who has only just become aware of her strange heritage. If Cave was having a hard time facing his wife’s death before, this is a head-on collision for him. Life crises somehow become that much more unmanageable when you have a cybernetic eye with a mind of its own and a nation of cave-dwellers desperately in need of saving.
In this issue, things that have been brewing come to a sticking point. As Cave puts it, “We’re dealing with an army of cultists, fungus monsters, and an immortal extra-dimensional demigod”. And though the key main players are in place, there simply seems to be no hope–unless something practically god-like can help. What’s been interesting to me all along about Cave Carson is the way in which struggle seems to spread across multiple fronts and flood at our heroes as a tangled mass. While comics love their multiple conflicts to keep episodic storytelling nicely tense, it seems to go further than that with Cave and be part of the underlying assumption of the book.
We have Cave’s personal issues and grief, we have his daughter Chloe’s madcap nature and own unresolved issues, we have an outlandish complicated history with the underground-dwelling Muldroog people, and we have Cave’s former employer EBX seemingly involved in some kind of strange Cthulu-like cult, among other things. The story is a study in chaos with Cave at the center trying to somehow keep it all together. Oeming and Filardi create fascinating expressions of interior emotion for characters, alongside external action, in a book that’s already a little psychedelic, and this issue even contains something like a drug trip, adding to the challenge. Oeming’s use of changing angles, his continuously inventive panel layouts, and commitment to the composition of the complete page creates the emotional charge necessary to build up the pressure points in this issue.
The fact that Cave is mindful enough to apologize to his wife’s estranged parents for not telling them of her death is remarkable, considering just how intense things have been. But even Cave has his limits, it seems. After fielding a shocking and overwhelming attack on the Muldroog royal family and in the face of an invasion of Muldroog-turned-creatural by poison, realizing that a malevolent demigod “The Whisperer” is almost certainly going to be released on the world, Cave has his moment.
He needs a god. And he then realizes that he isn’t going to get one. And so he melts down. It’s a surprising and great moment for the comic in a character who has thus far never panicked. It’s the reaction of someone who just can’t deal. “F&*ck. My. Life!” he yells, and smashes his smartphone. And if you like the character–it would be hard not to–then you’ll like him even more in that moment.
And as a reader, we know this is of our time. This is something we face. The feeling that the miasma of hostility or oppression in the world takes many forms, but somehow seems to be flooding together into one giant mess we can’t fight or deal with. Our personal issues and losses may weaken us, cutting us off from other relationships that might help. Our external world may seem to be falling apart. Worse threats may seem to loom on the horizon.
And deep down we may think there will be one perfect solution–something higher than us we can call on to fix everything in one fell swoop. And maybe we still hope in that, whether we should or not. But either way, we’ll hit our moments when the combined pressures of life feel too big to face. At this point, significantly, Cave calls on everyone in his life to provide suggested solutions rather than trying to build one alone. Maybe that’s something we can learn from, too.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye returns for issue #6 on March 15th.