Ales Kot’s Zero is an experiment in controlled disarray, a story of a man rushing face-first toward his inevitable ground zero. Its hard-edged, non-linear storytelling has been a sick pleasure to see unravel, particularly in the hands of the book’s “new-artist-every-issue” dynamic, which offers an individually expressive feel for every different point in main character Edward Zero’s unusual and violent life. The story of issue four, which carries the apt title “Vision Impairment,” follows Zero in the year 2019, as he interrogates a man named Gareth Carlyle: a discharged “bullet” of The Agency who has since gone quietly rogue after leaving, thereafter attempting to build a life of peace by establishing a sense of order in Rio De Janeiro with his adoptive gang of formerly aimless street toughs.
Of course, Zero isn’t there for a simple natter, and fisticuffs, as they are inevitably wont to do in this book, ensue as he realizes that Carlyle (in a great tie-in from Zero #1) is exactly what he will soon become after The Agency has had their way with his skills, and he outlives his usefulness.
In a way, this issue reminds me of the conceit of the film Looper, a simultaneous look into the past, present and future of a character bound for a violent and inglorious end. Kot works exceedingly well within that dynamic, and while it does switch between a dearth and excess of dialogue and exposition, Zero #4 continues the series’ terrific look into what builds and has built characters bred for murderous purpose.
Having worked with Kot to great effect previously, Morgan Jeske’s art is once again a powerful visual accomplice in this story. It comes cut from the same weathered, beaten and deeply scarred cloth as the narrative itself and works particularly well awash in the burnt sepia stain provided by Bellaire. Everything about it is brutal, not only in the vicious fight scenes that carry the issue’s two combatants across a scabbed and quivering Rio de Janeiro, but also in its quieter moments of lost beauty in its tragic, extreme-Bukowskian love story.
Amidst the cracked, sun-burned facade, Jeske also pulls off some clever tricks in his page anatomy (the scenes retelling the courtship and downfall of Carlyle and his lady-friend are of particularly note) and in his wordless, yet no-less evocative panels. His roughly-hewn style is sometimes discombobulating, but only where it needs to be and he is able to be both suggestive and forthright, with the car chase and resultant final throes of battle being a prime example.
Another one that particularly stands out is a close-up of Zero’s eyes; heavily grooved to give off deep consternation, they also remind me of a Rorschach test, and to me at least, appear like two savage wolves rushing at each other in a fight to the death: a fantastic visual precursor of the events that immediately follow.
While being a bit unbalanced between its text-heavy beginning and action-drenched second half, and suffering from an odd “listen to our hearts” scene, which fell flat for me, I found Zero #4 to be a great extension of this series, further firming it as one of my favorites currently on stands.
Writer: Ales Kot Artist: Morgan Jeske Colorist: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 12/18/13