Travelling Man's Blog

Review: Zero Volume 1: An Emergency by Travelling Man


Written by Ales Kot
Illustrated by Michael Walsh, Tradd Moore, Mateus Santolouco, Morgan Jeske and Will Tempest
Coloured by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Designed by Tom Muller
Published by Image
£6.50 with the SuperCard Go! You were given when you graduated from that hothoused spy academy you were taken to after…the accident

In 2038, Edward Zero sits on the White Cliffs of Dover with a bottle in his hand a gun at his neck. He used to be the best spy in the Great Game, but things change, people change. Edward Zero’s career It finishes on the cliffs, with the bottle and the gun. It starts here.

Ales Kot is consistently one of the smartest, most innovative writers working in modern comics. Zero is his finest work to date, and the proof is in the gradual way Edward Zero wakes up, and these stories open out. The first issue,’War Machines’ is illustrated with bloody, broken-toothed glee by Michael Walsh and is a classic superhuman fight scene. Two soldiers, one Israeli, one Palestinian, inflict horrific damage on each other and their surroundings as Zero tries to get close enough to yank the stolen enhancement tech out of the Palestinian. It’s savage stuff, echoing that epitome of superhuman violence, Miracleman, but with far more of a grounding. This is a job gone bad, for everyone, and the start of Zero’s journey. This is an action movie gone bad, and a comic taking a surprising left turn that echoes down the rest of the book.
The second issue, ‘I Remember Who You Are’, is illustrated by Tradd Moore, tightens the focus and gives us some background on Zero and his colleagues. This is the point where the book’s spy roots come through, and there are shades of The Prisoner and classic espionage fiction to Zero’s horrific childhood. Moore’s hugely detailed, frantic art work is a great fit too, especially the scenes where the focus is pulled back and we see the consequences of Zero’s actions.
‘A Needle in Your Eye’, the third story here does two things. Firstly, this is Zero at the height of his career; a quiet, reserved, strangely gentle James Bond in the middle of a gloriously ridiculous, and completely plausible set up. Zero, and fellow spy and love interest Mina, are infiltrating a crowdfunding party for terrorists, and Kot has huge fun playing with this idea. Santolouco, again, is the perfect choice for this. The art is detailed but tensed, like Zero himself, and again the character work is extraordinary. Jordie Bellaire really comes into her own here too, with the final pages chilling in every way. In fact Bellaire and Cowles deserve huge praise throughout the book. They’re the artistic spine of it, ensuring that even as each issue looks completely different, they read with the same tone and style. ‘Needle in Your Eye’ is the crux of the book and, I suspect, one of the hinges the series will turn on. It’s a quiet, sad story with immense implications for Zero and his violent, precise little universe.
‘Vision Impairment’, up next, is illustrated by Morgan Jeske and sees Zero tasked with bringing in a rogue agent who’s set up a new community in Rio De Janeiro. Jeske’s art is frantic and nervy, Bellaire’s colours are deeper and more intense and both communicate the heat of the environment and the tension of the situation. The man Zero is there to kill is an assassin, like him, but one who has turned away from the life. Cleverly, Kot and Jeske design him to have more than a passing resemblance to the older Zero we see at the start of the book and the message here is simple; old weapons get thrown away. The closing fight is incredibly brutal, the art is great and by the end, you’ll know just how many meanings ‘Vision Impairment’ has in this context.
And then there’s ‘The Map and the Territory’. Illustrated by Will Tempest, it sees a recuperating Zero being cross examined by one of his two controllers and, slowly, cracks in the armour starting to appear. ‘Needle in your Eye’ is a physically brutal fight scene, but ‘The Map and the Territory’ is an even nastier psychological one. Zero is dismantled in this story and with him, his view of the world. As it closes, we get our first hint of what’s really going on and, more importantly, return to the cliff face of the first few pages. To say anything more would spoil it and, trust me, this is a book you want to come to unspoiled.

Edward Zero’s story is extraordinary in every way. A killer with morals, a romantic in a world of violence and a spy at the start and end of his life, Zero is a quiet, likeable protagonist surrounded by some of the most remarkable talent working in comics today. The design work alone, by Tom Muller, makes this look like nothing else on the market and every single page proves that point. Edward Zero is unique. So is this book. Both deserve your attention.

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[…] mentions also go to Pretty Deadly, Bitch Planet, Captain Marvel, Archer & Armstrong, Zero, Umbral and The Fuse. All of them bear out just how clever, innovative and fun a year this was for […]

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