Intriguing, but underwhelming and overly familiar, Aphrodite V #1 is a safe start for the series but the potential is there for improvement.
Like a lot of near-future science-fiction, Aphrodite V #1 imagines a world of accelerating technology and artificially-intelligent robot assassins that still hasn’t moved beyond the social inequalities of the early twenty-first century. In the opening panels of this first issue, from writer Bryan Hill and artist Jeff Spokes, the black, gay, billionaire CEO of Carver Industries, Martin Carver, is called both a “millennial prick” and the “crown jewel” of MIT’s “diversity program” by the (white) mayor of Los Angeles.
That socially-conscious vein runs throughout Aphrodite V #1, even in regards to the eponymous heroine, the fifth attempt at an AI assassin who has developed a conscience and escaped from her creators. Typically beautiful in the way badass gunslinging women tend to be, her appearance is addressed explicitly, her beauty acknowledged as another function of an effective killing machine. It’s also, needless to say, a sly dig at rote representations of female characters in comics; you’ll notice that Aphrodite remains mostly covered-up, and doesn’t look like she’s smuggling two watermelons in her shirt.
Unfortunately, though, that penchant for forward-thinking ideas doesn’t extend to the setting, which is reminiscent of a lot of grungy near-future sci-fi. The colour palette is muted, and while it makes for a distinct style that feels about right for a world of shady futuristic assassins, it is a little lacking in personality. The same can be said of Aphrodite herself, with her intentional stoicism and lack of expression (not to mention limited focus) making her difficult to invest in as a character.
The focal point of Aphrodite V #1 is Martin, a technology entrepreneur who believes that privatisation of the police force will help to protect the citizens of L.A., who are suffering under a spate of suicide bombings. His progressivism is enough to see him targeted by some unpleasant types, but it’s unclear as yet how his stake in corporate warfare fits into a broader story.
Of course, an opening issue is no place for an entire story arc, and Aphrodite V #1 succeeds in being intriguing, if nothing else. But it remains relatively safe and unremarkable, trading in familiar genre ideas that have been done elsewhere and – thus far, anyway – done better. The potential is there for plenty of improvement, but the opener remains underwhelming.