We’re living in a time where technology advances faster than we can keep up. So it seems appropriate that many sci-fi titles today are focusing on the dangers of advancements without ethical concern. In APHRODITE V #1, an artificially intelligent assassin named Aphrodite escapes from her creators and crash lands in California. And as if finding her place in society wasn’t enough, she’s the only one who can stop the chaos of black-market technology from consuming Los Angeles and possibly the world.

Writer Bryan Hill (POSTAL, BONEHEAD) and artist Jeff Spokes (WITCHBLADE) team up to create a visually stunning world with even more stunning conflict. As positive technology advances, so does the negative. Average Joes are becoming mass murderers, and suicide bombers are on the warpath. But what happens when those who can help most aren’t allowed to?

Generational Disconnect

In APHRODITE V #1, we meet a few important characters. The story opens with a discussion between Martin Carver of Carver Industries and Los Angeles’ mayor. The city has lost thousands of lives due to suicide bombings. To fight back, Carver, a wealthy technological guru, wants to create a system that will track bombs and other weapons before they even enter a building. However, the mayor takes this as a threat to his power and refuses to listen to reason.

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To get a good idea of who Martin Carver is, imagine an Elon Musk who actually wanted to use his wealth for beneficial public programs rather than space travel. However, the similarities stop there. Carver is a compelling character because he’s a queer black man in a position of great power. This makes the mayor’s disapproval of his tech all the more complex. The comic shows the conflict between minorities in America (in this context) and those with inherent privilege (in this case, an assumedly heterosexual white man who holds a position of political power). The mayor even calls Carver “the crown jewel of [MIT’s] diversity program” and a “millennial prick.”

Aphrodite V #1
Image courtesy of Image Comics

Right off the bat, there’s a generational and racial divide. Though APHRODITE V #1 takes place in the “near future,” it still presents these inequalities. White men influence much of the tech industry (at least, they’re the ones who get the credit) so Carver is still seen as an outlier. Hui-Men, Carver’s assistant/bodyguard, is also an interesting character because she doesn’t fall into the trope of being completely stoic and sexy for the sake of the male gaze. I’m happy to see that the title character isn’t the only one with a compelling storyline.

The Female Body and Artificial Intelligence

Aphrodite herself doesn’t appear for another few pages, but her introduction certainly leaves an impression. I won’t give much away, but at first, I was skeptical of her character. Based on the cover art, I didn’t know whether to expect a sexy assassin stereotype or a fleshed out character. At this stage, most of the characters are still fairly fresh and we don’t know much about them. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how Hill and Spokes present Aphrodite.

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For some reason, movies and other media suggest women assassins and spies must have sex appeal — as if that’s the only way a woman can win a fight. In this case, Aphrodite is indeed beautiful, but her beauty serves a purpose. According to those who created her as a weapon, “enemies underestimate beauty.” The creators are conscious of how media usually depicts “badass” women as physically strong but always sexy in some way. This is where the art style truly comes into play, as Spokes doesn’t draw her to purposely show off her body as an object. In fact, most of the close-ups show her sinewy muscles. However, I would love to see them take this critique a step further by showing Aphrodite’s strength in a non-physical way as well.

Aprhodite V #1
Image courtesy of Image Comics

Strong Lines and Limited Colors

As I mentioned before, Jeff Spokes does an amazing job of illustrating Aphrodite without displaying her body as an object. The art in APHRODITE V #1 focuses on clean, heavy lines that ground you in the panels. And each page has a refreshing variation in panel size and dimensions. It was very easy to follow and just looked so solid without getting too deep into uncanny valley. The realistic style also works great for this comic and makes Aphrodite’s butt-kicking all the more satisfying.

Aphrodite V #1
Image courtesy of Image Comics

The color palette is pretty limited, focusing in on orange, blue, pink, and green. These colors don’t distract from the story and any intense hues are purposeful. Overall, the art and writing don’t get in the way of one another. The story is, of course, going to be a bit dark thematically, but that doesn’t mean it has to literally be pitch black.

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Final Thoughts on APHRODITE V #1

APHRODITE V #1 approaches the intersection of technological advancements and ethics in a bombastic way. It leads to the question, “we can advance, but should we?” In true TERMINATOR fashion, Aphrodite is a robot with a conscience, which always makes a great story. It’s also interesting because artificial intelligence is no longer some fantasy. In fact, the thought of currently living in a world with sentient robots makes this comic a little more chilling to read.

So far, the characters have a long way to go, but their introductions tell us a lot about who they are. For me, Carver is the most compelling character right now, mostly because we know much more about him than we do Aphrodite or Hui-Men. The dynamic between Carver and Aphrodite will certainly be interesting. I’m excited to see where this series goes, especially with Hill and Spokes at the helm.

Be sure to check out APHRODITE V #1 when it hits your local comic shop shelves July 18!

APHRODITE V #1 by Bryan Hill and Jeff Spokes
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
APHRODITE V #1 sets the stage for a series full of explosions, corruption, and artificially intelligent terror. This comic is ideal for fans of EX MACHINA, THE TERMINATOR, and any sci-fi robot classic.
92 %
tech warzone

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