Review: Empty Zone #1

I’m probably just a sucker for futuristic stories in which we’re not trying to survive some fucked up apocalyptic event, but instead just continuing to live life on this dirty ass planet we call earth. Think The Fifth Element. Think Johnny Mnemonic. Think Dredd. I could keep going with that, but just think of a future in which people basically don’t fear the law because people die a bit too much and we’re all just worrying about getting by. That’s kind of the stage set for Empty Zone. The issue starts off confusing. It does the thing in which is shows us a panel from the future of the story and then jumps to the past and works its way back to that point. It’s strange because it didn’t need to do that and again it’s a bit confusing because the scene isn’t really alluded to being the future so when it jumps back to the past your kind of left wondering what just happened.

After the opening though the story begins building momentum and getting really good. My recommendation? Skip the splash page and just start after that because it will make for a better read.

Empty-Zone-#1-1Now that we’ve gotten that out-of-the-way we open up with our main character Corinne as she wakes up from a bad dream. As she tells us with her narration, she doesn’t really sleep anymore and that the only thing that somewhat helps is drugs. Creator Jason Shawn Alexander uses an interesting device here in which some of the text appears in a different font and color. It’s almost as if someone is editing her thoughts. I’m not 100% sure what I was supposed to take from that, but I liked it and will be looking to crack the code with future issues.

Corinne begins talking to her house, because it’s the future and you can do that. If you haven’t watched the anime Psycho Pass then do so, it’s a bit like that only toned down. Corinne also has a robot arm which is worth pointing out. It’s a bit like Charlize Theron’s in Mad Max: Fury Road, but with fingers and such. She receives a call about a job and it’s unclear what her line of work is. Is she an assassin? It seems like it, but no it’s something closer to what I hinted out in my opening paragraph. During the call she sees someone outside her door. She has the door scan the person (a little Fifth Element if you ask me) and they come up unknown. She decides to run off after them as they go up to the roof. There she encounters something and I’ll leave it at that because it’s one of the best things about the issue. It’s the thing that makes it different from all those movies I listed in the beginning.

The narration does all the heavy lifting for the issue. Corinne walks us through her thoughts and while it doesn’t explain the entire world, it does give us insight into her personality. We get to know her through the narration and when shit gets weird and her narration stops, we’re left in the dark just like she is.

Jason Shawn Alexander does a fine job of world building. It’s heavily influenced, but overall it feels like something new. Since we’re only given the tiniest sliver it’s hard to say that there’s a deep concept here or that we’re really going to want to dive into the rest of the world, but it works for Corinne’s story and that’s all we need. Otherwise the storytelling is straight forward when it needs to be and allusive to add intrigue.

The art should definitely be described as gritty. It’s good gritty though. It’s not “oh we’re living in a post-Watchmen, post-Dark Knight industry” gritty, but rather it fits the story because as I said this future is kind of a shit hole. Sure we’re not all killing each other for clean water and gas, but it’s grimy and dirty. The art is also photorealistic. Corinne looks real. Her second toe is longer than her big toe and her build is that of a real woman with curves and hips. Because of this, again, when the story gets weird it really gets weird. But it works. It makes things far more interesting. Bottom line, the art sucks you in just as much as the narration.

I’ve equated Empty Zone to a lot of movies because I really think that’s the closest thing to compare it to. I can’t think of another comic other than maybe Sinister Dexter or Judge Dredd, but in setting alone. Otherwise Empty Zone is nothing like the aforementioned titles, but if you like any of those movies then I really think you’ll dig Empty Zone. I’m curious to see what others think of it and if the Image crowd will welcome this title that really has no comic comparison. Time will tell, but you can check out Empty Zone on June 17th.

Score: 4/5

Empty Zone #1 Writer/Artist/Creator: Jason Shawn Alexander Publisher: Image Comics Price: $3.50 Release Date: 6/17/14 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital