The original Aphrodite IX series of the late 1990s was primarily famous for two things – a publishing schedule that was erratic even by the standards of late 1990s Image Comics and a plethora of variant covers featuring the titular heroine presenting her well-rounded backside toward the reader like a female baboon during mating season. The main character of Aphrodite IX was a beautiful but emotionless android assassin, who gallivanted about the distant future in a torn white tank-top, black leather thigh boots, and a booty-baring pleated skirt.
Things have changed in this revamped Aphrodite IX series. Now she’s wearing pants!
An information page at the start of this issue tells us of an Aphrodite Protocol that was meant to preserve humanity in the event of a world-shattering disaster. This somehow led to the creation of two societies fighting over what little inhabitable land still exists around the Earth’s equator. In the West is the city of Speros, created by a fascist foundation of cyborgs. In the East lies the city of Genesis, where the genetically modified live under the rule of a theocratic monarchy. Hither came Aphrodite – a realistic android assassin, created by Speros to infiltrate Genesis and kill their leaders as the prelude to an all-out invasion. This issue finds Aphrodite struggling with sensations that she cannot define as she evades the security forces of Genesis, having just murdered a third member of their nobility.
Writer Matt Hawkins has created a far richer and varied world than the generic sci-fi setting where the original Aphrodite IX series was set. While the concept of two different societies warring in the face of destruction is one of the oldest tropes of science fiction, Hawkins does manage to make the cultures of Genesis and Speros distinct and interesting. Sadly, this distinction is not enough to overcome the biggest problem with the series’ concept, and that problem is Aphrodite herself.
In order to make a reader become emotionally invested in a story, a writer must give them a character they can build an emotional connection with. That’s a difficult task with a heroine who is, by definition, an emotionless cypher. Hawkins seems to be trying to go the Blade Runner route in turning Aphrodite into a sympathetic character but the sadistic cyborgs of Speros and the bestial Gen are sufficiently alien enough that there’s no basis for a comparison or contrast into who is the most human. While this issue does present Aphrodite seeming to develop some rudimentary emotions in spite of her programming, that’s not the same thing as an actual personality.
The kindest thing that can be said about Stjepan Sejic’s artwork for this issue is that he avoids the gratuitous cheesecake that seems to make up the vast majority of his oeuvre as well as the raison d’être for the original Aphrodite IX series. Though, this issue showcases why Sejic primarily works on pin-up covers rather than complete books. Given a single canvas to work upon, he can create wonders. Give him several panels to fill in, however, and his work becomes sloppy, rushed and off-model.
Whatever good intentions went into it, this revamp of Aphrodite IX can’t be considered anything but a dismal failure. The creative team struggles mightily against the inertia of the base concept but a new setting and a pair of pants cannot disguise the same dull heroine who failed to last more than six issues over a decade ago. In the end, Aphrodite IX is another relic of the Bad-Girl Boom who should have been kept in the bargain bin alongside Barb Wire and Darkchylde.