Out of the Vault – Cybersuit Arkadyne

I love anime and manga, and for a long time, I was also a big cyberpunk fan. So it should come as no surprise that when I saw a manga-style comic called Cybersuit Arkadyne, I snapped that shit up.

Cybersuit Arkadyne was a Canadian independent comic published by IANUS Publications in 1992. Tim Eldred was credited as Creator/Artist, with Jonathan Jarrard co-plotting and scripting. The plot concerns efforts by a group of scientists to develop a combat mecha, the cybersuit Arkadyne, to defend mankind against a shadowy alien threat.

The story opens with a group of terrorists planning to assassinate the test pilot for the suit, young Lieutenant Glenn Taback, who is slated to receive an experimental implant that has killed everyone it has been tried on. But the terrorists apparently don’t feel like waiting.

Too bad for them that somebody gets wind of their plan. They are ambushed on the road and killed to the last man by a gigantic humanoid blur.

But that’s not the weird part. The weird part is that later, during the press conference in which Taback is being introduced to the press as the pilot of the cybersuit, he hallucinates the attack by the terrorists that would have happened. And later, as he is being flown up to a space station to transfer to a lunar flight, he knows they are being attacked before anyone else is aware. His warning is all that saves the ship and its military escort.

Well, his warning and a mysterious giant robot who kills the attacking alien ships. And let’s just say, our mystery guest looks a little familiar.

That design matches the Arkadyne perfectly, except for the color scheme. And yet, nobody freaks out that there is a completely functional perfect copy of a suit that only exists as an untested, unfinished prototype.

Glenn undergoes the surgery to implant a device which will allow him to interface with Arkadyne and use its experimental gravitic drive like an extension of his own body. And we learn that he volunteered for the job because his best friend Carl (the previous Arkadyne test pilot) died from the implant and Glenn wants to honor his memory. And by the way, the beautiful female scientist who has perfected the implant procedure was in love with Carl and is beginning to develop feelings for Glenn as well. Not very professional.

Anyway, Glenn undergoes the procedure and takes the Arkadyne out for a spin. And this is where all the previous pilots bit it, apparently, being unable to handle the immense sensory overload of the gravitic drive.

But Glenn has help in the form of what appears to be the ghosts of all the pilots who have died before, who shield him from the overload until he’s able to handle it. Soon Glenn is passing all the tests with flying colors, and also able to interpret a mysterious alien sculpture which depicts the gravity wells of the different planets in the solar system. And not incidentally falling in love.

Although I couldn’t remember anything about the book when I ran across it in the Vault, I enjoyed rereading it. It was not an exciting read; the story synopsis above takes three full issues to develop, with lots of dialogue-heavy exposition. I can see where people would find it boring.

But Eldred’s art was appealing, the mystery was starting to develop into something interesting, the romance–while sometimes feeling awkwardly shoved into what should have been an adventure story for adolescent boys–was becoming central to the plot, and there were even hints of an overall theme, something pretty ambitious for a black-and-white self-published giant robot comic.

Apparently, though, “boring” was what the audience came away with, because the planned 6-issue miniseries was cancelled after the three that I own. It’s too bad. Although elements of the story felt awfully familiar, there was enough good that I would have liked to see how it turned out.

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