William Rosenthal ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Zero #1, written by Ales Kot and illustrated by Michael Walsh, will not hold your hand. It trusts you enough to follow along, glimpse the aspects of the world it builds, and hold the questions you have, because there’s a story here, a great story, but it has to be told before it is answered.
Ales Cot, previously a DC author, constructs a believable near future on the cusp of widespread transhumanist biotechnology in the military. In this world of blossoming cyborg soldiers, there exists a secret, classified group, known only as The Agency, which works to contain infantile technology from the public eye. Of this organization, Agent Zero, a seasoned vet who was recently reinstated as a field agent, is dropped into the Gaza Strip to recover stole biotech implanted in a Palestinian terrorist.
This is as much as we’re told. We aren’t told what or how large the Agency is or who its ally is, only that it exists. We aren’t told what the stolen technology does, only that Zero must recover it. The types of human augmentation aren’t elaborated on, either. The reader has to have a level of trust with the narrative that it with return to the unanswered questions later when they need to be answered. Although, they don’t need to be answered for the story to be enjoyable because the focus isn’t the technology.
The human elements make this story engaging. The opening thirty years into the future where an elderly agent Zero has a gun to his head by a young boy, the empathy with Zero’s desperation to finish this mission because it could be his last, and the archetypal bosses at the agency and their relationship together are what left me wanting more.
This kind of science fiction is reminiscent of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, in terms of world crafting, and to a lesser extent Elysium which came out this summer. Both of these stories use Sci-Fi in order to tell a compelling story rather than something entirely concept based.
At first reading, the art was the only part at which something felt off. Not to say Walsh is a poor artist by any means, but his minimal details and thick, black outlines came off at first as cartoonish. After reading further, the art started to click. Walsh as an eye for gritty, disturbing detail from the stress lines in Zero’s face to the flesh torn off soldier’s faces. If this art had done in another style, for example a graphic, realistic one, the art would distract the reader from the story. Walsh’s art portrays the pain and anguish imprinted on the characters and the world and then moves the story right along into the next panel.
The key to Zero #1 is a brilliant awareness of focus. It’s aware that it’s a first issue so it doesn’t have to hit upon every little detail. What’s more impressive is that Zero #1 is a complete story at a time when “origins” are told over a five comic arc. It’s clear that Kot went into this issue with the intent of establishing agent Zero as the protagonist including his obstacles. Kot’s vision must have been shared with Walsh since both creators went about crafting issue #1 this way.
Zero #1 is a well-crafted, gripping read. It shows a complete image while leaving itself open for more without sacrificing storytelling. This critic gives Zero #1 a 4 out of 5 and a top spot in the stack for the coming months.