*Don’t Worry! Spoiler Free!*
The two things about Ales Kot’s (Change, Suicide Squad) writing that draw me in is that 1. It feels earnest. There are messages and themes weaved within that he seems to genuinely believe in. The invasion of privacy, desensitization toward violence, and the risks/benefits of evolving technologies are just some of the topics. Combining that with natural, believable dialogue it makes reading so enjoyable.
The other thing about Kot’s writing is that it is as slippery as an eel. Just when you think you have a feel for his story he then throws a curve ball that not only makes you question the plot of the story but also the genre and the characters you have been following.
Which is my “clever” segue into Zero #5.
I want this to remain as spoiler free as possible, so I will say that the events of this issue take place around a month after the events of issue #4. The events of #4 and especially #3 are still very much felt in this issue which serves as a debriefing and is full of character moments for our protagonist, Edward Zero, as well as his handler Zizek. It concludes with the aforementioned curve ball that made me have to go back and question everything about Zero, his motivations and even his true nature.
But comics are nothing without art. What was a drawing point for several to this series was that there would be a different penciler on each issue. This issue featured the art of Will Tempest (Far Below, Excerpt From Wrinkled). There are great chunks of the issue with minimal to no dialogue and it is up to Tempest to convey the near absolute bleakness that is Zero’s existence and he performs it incredibly well, whether it is Zero in an MRI machine, working out in his extremely minimalistic room or popping Agency-mandated pills. He also shows a very keen eye for the design of objects that are… otherworldly.
In a series that has the artist change every issue, you run the risk of the series becoming schizophrenic. However, I feel that the glue that really does hold together such a risky endeavor is colorist Jordie Bellaire (Pretty Deadly, Manhattan Projects). I do not know how she can color so many books and still have great quality across the board. Referring back to the silent scenes with Zero, her colors are able to depict the kind of sterility and emotionless environment that the base of an organization like the Agency would be.
Letterer Clayton Cowles (Young Avengers, Black Widow) continues to show his skills in balloon positioning to create the maximum emotional effectiveness of panels. (If I can draw attention to another example, the use of thought dialogue within gutters in issue #1 was a personal favorite of mine).
The cover of the issue was created by both Tempest and the book designer Tom Muller which depicts the wounded Zero through a garbled video recording, going along with the debriefing plot within. While it is not my favorite cover of the series (that still goes to issue #3), I still very much enjoyed it.
There are some very minor problems with the issue. The first one is part-in-part of the nature of the storytelling of the series. The events are told in an anachronic order, meaning there are jumps between years, even decades, and not in the correct order (People who know me will know of my love of the series Baccano!, which has a similar storytelling style). I am very much aware that it is not for everyone. Even I had to re-read the previous four issues to reacquaint myself with events and characters. Luckily #4 and #5 serve back-to-back, so that helps.
The other, again very minor, problem is the last page before the jump back to the “present” (which in this case is 2038). It serves as part of the massive curve ball, but it was kind of confusing as to what was going on. Perhaps that was the intention of the page and if so, congratulations, you got me.
Final Score: 4.5/5
This is an incredibly enjoyable series that takes an examination at the spy, war and certain other genres while adding in a great deal of thought into society, what is considered the “norm” and the human condition and what happens when it is broken down. The concept of different artist for different issue is a tricky one, but it pays off here in dividends. As I said, the anachronistic approach of storytelling may not be to everyone’s appeal, especially in single issues. There is a very good chance it will read much better in collected format.
If you enjoyed Kot’s work on Suicide Squad, I highly recommend this series. The first collected edition is coming out in the next month and collects issues #1-5, which should not even be too hard to find at shops both physical and digital.
The tag line for the series is “I Am Nothing”, but Zero is definitely something that will be magnificent.