Written by Ales Kot
Art by Various Artists
Colours by Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Designs by Tom Muller
Published by Image Comics
Zero is a very special comic whose strength lies in collaboration. Almost every single issue of Zero features a different artist, providing their own unique style to the dark and muddled world of super spy Edward Zero. Utilizing this approach is fairly unheard of in the world of comics and is really only delved into in an anthology series. To showcase a fresh approach artistically is a very brave thing to attempt, let alone pull off. Most series benefit by maintaining a creative team for as long as possible, allowing for a consistency in quality. The experimental approach by Zero does not suffer from a lack of consistency.
Led by a firm, confident script by Ales Kot, the world of Edward Zero is presented at first as a seedy array of espionage missions. It unconventionally jumps through multiple periods of time into a deep exploration of the self, loss and the darkness that is held within us all. Zero is considered a top-notch agent for the organization called The Agency and commits his strong-will and suave attitude to many successful missions. His violent and unorthodox methods for getting the job done boil the blood of his superior officers Roman Zizek and Sara Cooke. What begins as a prevention of bio-terrorism and an involvement in the political situations of countries around the world turns into a full on assault on The Agency that leads into a more personal journey of understanding and self-exploration for Edward Zero.
“Existence is a perpetual state of war.”
There is so much ground to cover, considering the series only lasts eighteen issues. The scope and details covered within each issue show the amount of organization and care that each artist provides, alongside the colouring of one of the best in the business: Jordie Bellaire. One can easily do an issue-by-issue breakdown of what each artist brings to the table progressing the tight and dense scripts of Kot. There really isn’t one weak issue in the lot, but standouts include the early days of Zero explored by Tradd Moore, the Icelandic backdrop for Michael Gaydos’s issue, a brutal burst of violence from Alberto Ponticelli and Mareck Oleksiki, the hauntingly beautiful final issue by Tula Lotay, amongst many, many others.
Zero is an intertextual journey that questions the role Edward Zero plays in his world. He quickly recognizes the unavoidable, mysterious nature that drives things forward. The frustration of realizing the minimal influence and affect he has on the perpetual state of war, strips his conscience, his being into less than just a numbered soldier and embodies this notion of nothingness: a zero.
“Do you know what a phase shift is?”
The series really changes, or “shifts” as Zero states at the beginning of issue #10. The outward tensions that have presented themselves up to this point turn inward as Zero finds himself confronted with the ‘real’ world. His voluntary dismissal from the The Agency brings him to the vast and open landscape of Iceland. Committing to repetition, to a routine for the everyday allows him to be part of a larger collective, of the societal machine. He even passes the time by reading Douglas Rushkoff’s Program or Be Programmed and has changed his name to Roland.
As Zero/Roland wanders in the town, he sees an old man with a hat in front of him on the ground. Zero pulls out some money to give to the man but is told by a random woman that the people around him are putting on a live play. As she instructs, the old man plays an alternate self from another universe that meets a younger version of him. The older version notices the younger, happier version of him with a woman he clearly loves. An exchange between the old and younger version plays out like this:
Old man: “You have a good thing.”
Young man: “I know. I had someone like that once.”
The woman then reminds Zero that this is all theatre, and asks him for his name again. But, this time, he replies with his real name: Edward. This turning point, of realizing the importance of identity and how we recognize the self through the double reaffirms Zero’s purpose and thrusts the series into a more twisted and personal journey.
Zero is a great example in which the medium of comics can be utilized to tell compelling, challenging stories with a wide array of art styles that touches on relevant and personal subject matter. Ales Kot’s dense script with the vast selection of artists and consistent, style adhering colourist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire make this a very special book. Additionally, the lettering by Clayton Cowles greatly balances heavy text with the nuanced images and intensely violent moments where the lack of words and sound effects adds to the tense moments. And last, but not least, Tom Muller’s layered designs add a contemporary flair to the cover art, completing the collaborative team effort that is brought forth in every issue. With only eighteen issues to bring full circle the journey of Edward Zero, this novella of a series is a definite highlight for the amount of creative owned books out in the market.