COMIC REVIEW: Zero Issue #1

ZERO001_CompRev05-1Zero is Image Comics latest creator-owned offering from rising star Ales Kot, best known 2012’s excellent Wild Children. More traditional in style and format than that title, Zero is a story of biotech and terrorism and how far humanity can be stretched. However, it is still a comic book that knows what it is and accepts its audience. Interestingly, each issue was written with a different artist and with a new mission for our hero, Edward Zero.

So, meet Zero. We’re talking future super-spy type here. A highly trained soldier, almost from birth. He is known for getting the job done. Always. We are introduced to Zero with a shocking scene at the cliffs near Dover. It is 2038. A young boy has his gun pointed at the head of an old man. The old man wants to tell his tale before he dies. This is a great way to re-write the clichéd opening to many a story, where the 3rd person becomes the 1st person. We’re now in the Gaza Strip and its 2018. There’s some bioengineered soldiers and some techno gizmo implanted in one of them, which Zero needs to retrieve before the Israelis get it. This MacGuffin is all a bit of – albeit very substantial – fluff to show the reader exactly who Zero is and how far he’ll go to get the job done. We also have a few pages involving his agency handlers, back at some base; a young ambitious woman, and a middle-aged bureaucrat who has known Zero all his life. They have emotionless sex, showing the reader exactly the type of people the agency are too.

There’s not a whole lot of story in issue #1, which is fine. It is mostly set up and a fairly straight forward job, which gets done. Zero is happy to kill anyone to achieve his aim and will overcome any odds, even accidentally injuring himself. What this means, however, that there is no peril for him. Like Superman or James Bond, you know he’ll win in the end. So the trick to get the reader to empathise is to look at how his life affects him. It’s the morality of his actions. This isn’t explored to any depth in this issue, but I assume it will in future issues.

The art is by Michael Walsh, another one of Image’s bright young things. He’s previously worked on Comeback. The colouring is by Jordie Bellaire who has coloured The Manhattan Projects, amongst others. As with Kot’s Wild Children, the use of colour and tone is vital to the story. Walsh uses big panels and bold lines with plenty of shadows and minimalist backgrounds, but it is Bellaire’s colouring which brings the comic to life. Most pages have a single colour theme which sets the tone of the theme; the cliff-top opening is all grey-blue, suggesting a pre-dawn perhaps; the battle zone streets of Gaza are hot yellows and oranges, in stark contrast to the blood and gore that litters the pages; and the agency offices are cold blue.

In this issue, Kot’s storytelling and characters are reflected by the art, so it will be interesting to see how the next artist brings their style to the comic. Zero and his handlers are cold and methodical. Death and sex are not important to them. Blood is just something to highlight how much damage has been done. The violence, both physical and at the hands of weaponry, pulls no punches in its viciousness. The narrative is simple but effective, drawing the reader into this new world. Despite the graphically depicted sex and violence, and comment on terrorism, this is a book that is not out to shock, but to depict from a cold distance. The art goes a long way to achieve this.

Kot’s latest, then, is a brutal but enjoyable comic, which does what a good issue #1 should. It makes you interested in the character and the world he inhabits, and makes you want to continue reading.

Rating: 4/5
Reporter: Ian J Simpson

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