Review: Zero #2

zero02_coverB copy

Ales Kot’s Zero #2 is an Image book I’ve been very much looking forward to, ever since reading and reviewing its first issue. And even from its cover, I knew this was gonna be a good time. Like most other people with an internet connection and even a passing interest in the series, I’d caught a whiff of what was going to happen this time, as it was revealed by Kot a while ago. However, only after recently shooting the proverbial shit with him at the New York Comic Con did I get a true sense of how excited he was about it.

That guy is living the dream, man, and the sheer elation he has for his craft, and this project in particular, is nothing short of infectious. But, would the hype machine match Kot’s followthrough, as he this time works with artist Tradd Moore? The answer – with a bullet – is yes.

In Zero #2, we are made privy to the classified past of Edward Zero’s formative years working for the clandestine organization known as The Agency, which monitors and, if need be, changes the world’s geopolitical landscape to suit its own ends with the aid of its homegrown covert warriors. Now, when I say “formative,” I mean it. This is a story about Edward as a young boy, attending what is, for all intents and purposes, a middle school for government-sanctioned killers.

zero02_coverAWhile we watch as lil’ Ed and his chums learn about history and geography, while also being put through insane tests of human endurance and mental training, it becomes evident that this Agency is fiercely dedicated to maintaining the status quo of the world, be it by shaping borders or putting down the “dogs” that would dare change them. The issue ends with Edward’s first mission, and it’s an emotional ride.

Kot is able to switch between kids believably being kids to impressionable minds being girded for war, and it’s a harrowing experience throughout. Watching them hang from trees and jaw about getting married one day and then seeing them going through combat training, being forced to kill their own food and getting debriefed about assassination targets is … creepy. Moreso, however, is the slow, methodical patience of a child killer as he hides within the house of his victim, watching the resident happy family – a life he should have – as he does.

If you’ve read the Luther Strode series, then you’ll know what to expect from Tradd Moore, but you also might be surprised. Often known for putting the “gore” into “phantasmagoric,” Moore here is much more restrained, at the same time able to shape the innocence (stolen and otherwise) within this story, with really only one scene of the ultra-violence with which he has become so instantly recognizable. And as it turns out, he works very comfortably within the quieter spaces between spilling out the insides of things.

Some people might take issue with his angular, almost crystalline faces, not to mention his lithe, sinewy figure work, but for me, it’s reminiscent of a perhaps more gnarly Sal Buscema-meets-Walt Simonson style, and especially in this context, for this particular issue, I think it works like gangbusters.

With this collaboration, I am starting to see why Kot wanted to experiment with a different artist for each issue of Zero. The time and place as envisioned by each is, even in the first two issues, paired well with their respective artists, making them their own evocative visual encounters.

I continue to be pretty goddamn enamored with Zero, and am even more interested now in its future given the look this time into its past.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Tradd Moore
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $2.99
Date: 10/16/13

Steve Paugh

Little is known of the mirky origins of Steven e. Paugh, though scholars maintain it was rich in both miscreant sorcery and omega 3 fatty acids. When not reviewing books for Comic Bastards (thus feeding his obsession), he plies further wordsmithery at international lifestyle magazine Sur la Terre Arabia. Steve holds a black belt in verbosity and will inevitably be survived by his wife’s two cats and a tidy beard. -- Follow Steve on Twitter @StevilEmpire

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