Last Level Press

Manga Review: Cyborg 009

Reviewer: Olen Bjorgo

“Wake up, Zero Zero Nine…”

A global weapons manufacturer known as the Black Ghost has invested countless billions of dollars into their Cyborg Soldiers, cybernetic living weapons meant to revolutionize warfare, but have done so at a great cost to the humanity of their initial line of prototypes: none of them were willing participants. They come from different walks of life, young and old from across the world, but under the protection and care of the remorse-driven Dr. Gilmore they all have one unified goal: to stop the Black Ghost, and prevent the needless destruction of lives.

“Noooooooo-oh wait, wrong movie?  Wrong medium?  Damn, I really

have been away for a while.”

Cyborg 009 was originally a long-running manga created by Shotaro Ishinomori (1938-1998), the same man who was also responsible for popular Japanese shows such as Kamen Rider and Super Sentai (known in the West as Power Rangers). While Ishinomori’s art style was more similar to that of his mentor, the world-renowned “god of manga” Osamu Tezuka, this graphic novel iteration was penciled and inked by Canadian artist Marcus To (Red Robin, Soulfire) and colored by Ian Herring (Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand). While I’m not too familiar with either’s work, their representation of the Cyborg 009 universe in a more Western art style has me convinced that they couldn’t have picked better men for the job. To’s blend of the iconic look of the Cyborgs dating back to the 1960s to appear more modern works superbly, and Herring’s colors are bold, vivid, and truly bring to life a world that was originally printed in black and white. I have to mention that the updated look for the head of the Black Ghost organization deserves immense praise, changing him from what looked like a cartoonish villain to someone that looks as remorseless and cold-hearted as the man under the mask.

While the art is gorgeous, the narrative unfortunately doesn’t have the same caliber, but it isn’t terrible. In fact, it’s far from terrible. Although the pacing can feel rushed in some areas, writers Bradley Cramp (The Truman Show) and F.J. DeSanto (The Spirit) had a monumental task of condensing the first two arcs of the original story down into about 120 pages, and presenting it to an audience that may have never even heard of Cyborg 009 or Shintaro Ishinomori. In that 120 pages we’re given the brief backstory and place of origin for each of the nine cyborgs, the explanation of Black Ghost’s intentions and plans, several battles with cyborg assassins, a look at 009’s past, and even a hook for a continuation. With all of that packed into a single book, and with DeSanto working to bring more of Ishinomori’s properties to the West, I know they did the best they could to not only give their own take but also did so without sacrificing the original intent of the story. The eponymous 009 does get the most time since he is both the leader of the group and the reader’s proxy, but it’s still a shame we don’t see the others have their moments like he does. Maybe we’ll have a chance to see more thanks to that hook.

Wink wink, nudge nudge.

Despite the lack of depth we’re given for much of the main cast, they’re still a colorful and motley crew that we care about, since each of them has their own unique abilities that are helpful to the group as a whole. While some of the 00’s have more direct combat usage in their battles, such as super strong 009’s “Acceleration Mode” that allows him to move so quickly that others appear to be standing still, former German Air Force captain Albert Heinrich (004) being able to shoot bullets from his hands, fire breathing Chinese chef Chang Changku (006), or the gentle Native American giant Junior (005) who is physically the strongest, others such as the Ivory Coast freedom fighter Pyunma (008), morphing stage actor Great Britain (007), the brash New Yorker Jet Link (002) who is capable of flying up to Mach 5, the hearing sensitive, sound wave manipulating French ballerina Françoise Arnoul (003), and the super intelligent, telepathic Russian infant Ivan Wisky (001) are more indirect fighters. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, their quirks and tropes, but they still retain their humanity, a trait that many of the enemies have either lost or refuse to have.

Cyborg 009 is a brief read despite its length, if only because it draws you in so well. Once finished you’ll either have a disappointed “Aww, that’s it?” feeling or, if you’re like me, you’ll read it again in the hopes that Archaia and the folks who made it decide to continue. It’s not a comic that will leave you in stitches or make you sad, or even make you angry, or rather I certainly hope it doesn’t. It’s an action driven story with a simple plot, but holds a bit of depth that leaves you wanting more.

Speaking of…

You want more of the dangers that scientific and knowledge seeking can bring, you want more resonance with how peace is a noble goal worth striving for, you want more of how the drive and causes of war can destroy the innocent, and you want more of how the bad guys are the people who want to start wars simply for profit rather than any large political goal. These are the themes that have always been resonant in Cyborg 009 as a whole, from its Cold War era origins to our post-Cold War present. I would go as far to say these are themes that are worth more now than they were during a time when people feared nuclear Armageddon. If you’re a fan of Cyborg 009, either from the original manga or the anime, definitely do yourself a favor and go check this out. If you enjoy fast-paced action, you might get a kick out of this as well. At the end of the day, it’s an enjoyable comic worth having on your shelf.

Rating: 7.4

Artwork: 9
Narrative: 7
Characters: 8
Entertainment Value: 7
Experience: 7

“Only commies watch explosions.”

                                                                                    -Michael Bay

(Editor’s Note: Citation needed)

  Author: F.J. DeSanto, Bradley Cramp

  Publisher: Archaia Entertainment

  Illustrator: Marcus To, Ian Herring

  Release Date (U.S.): Sep 11, 2013

  Release Date (U.K.):  Sep 11, 2013

  Release Date (JP):  Sep 11, 2013

Final Verdict:


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