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Spotlight

Bryan Hill and Jeff Spokes Reconstruct Aphrodite V

By Vernon Miles

Aphrodite V may be science fiction, but writer Bryan Hill doesn’t consider himself a futurist. 

The core of the new Top Cow comic, which offers an earlier version of the iconic, green-haired android assassin introduced by David Finch and David Wohl in 1996, lies in its characters. And those character don’t just navigate issues whose prominence looms decades in the future—Aphrodite confronts the issues of today. “I don't worry too much about trends,” Hill says, “but I do pay attention to the rise of corporate power in the world and how some sections of government and society want to privatize everything, putting profit incentive where it didn't live before. That's something I tackle in the story, for sure, looking at both the benefits and the hazards of that.”

But the overarching political and ethical questions are only relevant in how they impact the ensemble of characters that Hill has assembled, illustrated with moody veneer by Jeff Spokes. Hill says most of his work has focused on melding character-driven dramas with solid action, particularly in his previous Top Cow series, Postal, co-written with Top Cow President and COO Matt Hawkins and illustrated by Isaac Goodhart. The story of criminals gathered in a single small town, Postal mixes action and political introspection with a wide cast of rounded characters. Aphrodite V embraces that same cocktail of commentary and catastrophe.

Within its pages, Martin, a “gay, black billionaire with a 195 IQ,” is an outsider in every sense, and his brusque nature further isolates him from everyone except his right-hand woman, Hui-Men. Martin harbors big ideas: big and unpopular. He has the resources, technology, and drive to privatize Los Angeles’ police force. In his mind and sales pitch, every life lost through inept policing is one he could have saved with the right tool in the right place at the right time. The horrifying possibilities of this scenario are obvious to everyone except Martin, which grounds a fascinating dynamic between the eccentric entrepreneur and his closest associate.

“Hui-Men is a woman of violence, and Martin is, in many ways, a man caught in a permanent adolescence, his maturity defeated by his near-infinite resources,” Hill explains. “She protects him, as a bodyguard, but also as a stabilizing force in his life. What Hui-Men receives is purpose, a place to direct her violent nature for the common good. It's a symbiotic relationship, but I'm not sure if it's a positive one. The story tests it, especially when Aphrodite is introduced into their world.”

Aphrodite is a hyper-advanced android designed for combat. This version, V, precedes the legacy of Aphrodite IX, the aforementioned character debut about a future-forward amnesiac robot rebelling against her programming.

“Technically, this is a prequel, as it happens in the near future, but it's really a standalone science-fiction action story starring Aphrodite V,” Hill clarifies. “You don't, and let me repeat, don’t have to know the continuity of Top Cow to enjoy this. This can be your first Top Cow book; if you pick it up and it looks cool, you can trust that if you buy it, you won't be confused if you don't know the history of Cyber Force [Aphrodite V was first introduced in the first issue of the 2012 series] or Aphrodite. My influences for this range from William Gibson to James Cameron to Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop. The plan was to take this character and a make a story that could stand on its own for all fans of sci-fi action.”

Hill also cites pioneering crime director Michael Mann as an influence on the series, and that visual DNA bleeds into the debut issue with a broad-day shootout in downtown LA, reminiscent of the neo-noir Heat. Choreographed with kinetic grace by Spokes, the result is striking, mixing the tactile ’90s aesthetic of metal-heavy cyborgs and dark police stations with the sleek, svelte ballet David Finch instilled in the original Aphrodite series.

But those influences run deeper than the ink on the page. Heat stands as a testament to measured pacing and subtle character development. While the bank robbery escape is arguably the film’s most famous scene, the moment of greatest tension comes when the two main characters—played by Al Pacino and Robert De Niro—sit across from each other in a coffee shop. Similarly in Aphrodite V, some of the greatest tension and character building comes from more subdued moments, such as when Martin sits down with the android that just saved his life. What follows is a candid discussion between a technological savant and the embodiment of all of his ambition.

“I wanted to write a story with Aphrodite that was accessible to people who either know the character from her iconic design and nothing more, or never heard of her but think she looks cool,” Hill says. “It's why we're set in Los Angeles and not a far-off sci-fi landscape. This is a story that works as an entry point. Readers should feel good about taking the risk.”

Aphrodite V #1 Is Available Now