Thursday, 12 February 2015

Zero, Volume 1: An Emergency Review (Ales Kot, Tradd Moore)


James Bond. George Smiley. Jason Bourne. Edward Zero? Nuh-uh. Although Ales Kot really wishes it were so, his spy/secret agent “character”, Zero, is as archetypical as they get - a bland, yes I’ll make the obvious pun, zero who never feels vaguely real or interesting. But he’s the “star” of this series so settle in for some generic spy stories in this first volume, An Emergency. 

The subtitle is a good indicator of what’s wrong with this book. Kot thinks that by throwing in mindless action, showing car chases and gunfights and sex, all without context, that the reader will be enraptured with what they’re reading. It’s An Emergency, Kot says, willing the potential drama those words have as if that were enough - and it’s not. 

Zero is telling his life story to a kid assassin pointing a gun at his head. The kid is sent from his old taskmasters, The Agency (oh, the imagination that must’ve gone into dreaming up that name!), who trained him up from a child into an adult killing machine. Um - why is the kid standing there waiting politely for Zero to tell his numerous boring stories? Why doesn’t he just pull the trigger and be done with the assignment - or, as we find out, why doesn’t the adult assassin, who accompanies all the kid assassins, do it for him if the kid can’t pull the trigger? Contrived much?

Zero’s stories are the most generic spy stories ever. He goes to Israel to kill some dude and steal some tech. He goes to Belfast to kill a former IRA terrorist. He goes to Asia to kill a wealthy enemy target. He goes to South America to kill a former spook with secrets. It’s always the same: Zero goes somewhere exotic and fights a bunch of people, killing them. How rote can you get? 

Kot tries to add variety to his one-note stories by having a different artist draw a different issue but it doesn’t make them any better to read. The art however is the only positive thing I can say about this book. One of my favourite new artists, Tradd Moore, draws the IRA issue and it looks awesome. Check out his work on Luther Strode and All-New Ghost Rider for some high quality comics. 

Morgan Jeske’s art in the South American escapade was noteworthy for carrying the entire issue. It’s almost entirely wordless with Zero and the target fighting and then driving through a densely populated urban environment at speed, and Jeske pulls off the sequences with style, showing a strong understanding of good action. 

But really I didn’t mind any of the artists in this book, all of whom put in some great pages - Michael Walsh, Mateus Santolouco, and Will Tempest, who round out the artist roster for this first volume. And Jordie Bellaire’s colours are perfect as usual. The background panels in the Asian issue were coloured alternately yellow and red which for some reason I can’t fathom made it look so eye-catching and exciting - but then that’s why she’s the award-winning colourist and not me! 

Kot dedicates the IRA issue to Garth Ennis, partly I’m sure because Ennis is from Northern Ireland, but probably because Kot is a fan, much like I am. There’s even a nod to the second volume of Preacher where Jesse Custer got locked up in a box and thrown to the bottom of a lake, as a kid - the exact same thing happens to Zero. Unfortunately, Kot’s writing is nowhere near Ennis’ standard. 

There is no story to Zero Volume 1; it’s an episodic, unconnected blur of stories plucked from different points in Zero’s life without rhyme or reason. Worse, they’re all dull, cliche-ridden pap. The art might be good but it’s not reason enough to pick up this book. I read this tedious comic and felt as emotionless afterwards as Zero is trained up to be.

Zero, Volume 1: An Emergency

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