Earlier this year, Lost in Translation reviewed Cyberpunk 2077: Trauma Team, which followed a MedTech working for the emergency medical provider, Trauma Team. The comic was based on Cyberpunk 2077, the video game successor to the tabletop RPG Cyberpunk 18.104.22.168., both created by Mike Pondsmith. The games, both video and RPG, are set in a near future where corporations control the country and people are left to eke out lives either in the gilded cage of a corporate office or on the sidelines. Cyberpunk, the genre, is not a happy place to live, yet the only difference between cyberpunk and today is the lack of implanted augmentations. Maybe by 2077.
The other theme in cyberpunk and in Cyberpunk is that while it may not be possible to change the world, it is possible to change the world around you. The change doesn’t have to be for the better. In Neuromancer, Case leaves the world in a new situation, one that it has to adjust to, while his own life has changed greatly despite his efforts.
As a genre, cyberpunk began as literary but relies heavily on imagery that it was a natural to be picked up in more visual mediums. While Blade Runner didn’t start as cyberpunk, its film adaptation provided the visual esthetic that it’s part of the genre’s DNA. Moody, neon, gritty, and focused on the outsiders.
That brings us to Cyberpunk 2077: Where’s Johnny from Dark Horse Comics, written by Bartosz Sztybor, with art by Giannis Milogiannis, colours by Roman Titov, and letters by Aditya Bidikar. The plot follows Wallace, a reporter who is working to bring down the corporations, who is brought into a complex plot. The hook, a lead into who planted a nuclear bomb in Arasaka’s Night City HQ, the missing Rockerboy, Johnny Silverhand. Get proof, and Wallace has it made at his employer.
Naturally, things are never as they appear. Wallace is being played. Everyone wants to know where Johnny is, but Wallace finds out something else. A body allegedly recovered from the former Arasaka Tower, died not of radiation or being crushed but by having her throat slit. Wallace might not be able to bring down a corporation, but he can bring the woman’s killer to justice of sorts.
The graphic novel is definitely using elements from Cyberpunk 2077. Johnny Silverhand is a legacy character, showing up first in the Cyberpunk 2013 Night City supplement then in the Cyberpunk 22.214.171.124. core rules as an established character before being portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the video game. Johnny has gone through a lot, including a few deaths; thanks to technology, it is possible to back up memories to be implanted in a clone if you can afford the medical insurance. Johnny’s trademark is a chromed cybernetic arm and hand; in 2020, he often treats it as a separate entity, a reflection of a loss of humanity due to its implantation.
The arrival of the Silverhands poser gang brings in an element that doesn’t really appear in the videogame. Poser gangs get cosmetic surgery to look like a celebrity or a group of celebrities. In 2020, sample poser gangs include the Gilligans, who look like the characters from Gilligan’s Island and the Bradies, based off The Brady Bunch. WHile most poser gangs are considered annoyances, especially by other types of gangs, they can be a problem. Witnesses giving a description after an organized snatch-and-grab are going to all describe Gilligan in different ways. The videogame didn’t include because of issues with permissions, though if the Silverhands appear after an update, they would fit in well.
In the end, not much changes by the end of Where’s Johnny. Corporations are still warring. People are still oppressed. But Wallace does get in justice for the dead woman in a way that could not have happened through regular channels. And this is at the heart of the game. Wallace is still the same, but he can live with himself at the end. It’s not the large change, but the series of small changes along the way that will improve life for people. Cyberpunk 2077: Where’s Johnny mixes up elements from tabletop and video game, mixes them up, and provides a story that fits in both.