For its fifth issue, I levied significant praise on Ales Kot’s Image book, Zero and marked it as the best in one of the most singular series to come out in the past year. It really was that good. Now we’re back, and after a two-month hiatus and the release of Zero’s first trade, is this book able to maintain its thus-far incredible quality stability yet ever-creatively shifting momentum, or did it blow its wad too hard last time? Continuing the series’ jump and jive through time, this issue is set in December of 2019 and follows the newly field-cleared Edward Zero (who recently suffered ocular expulsion) as he undertakes a solo hostage mission on behalf of The Agency at the Large Hadron Collider.
While Eddie does his thing (read: jackin’ suckas in dey grills) in a steady stream of bullet-ridden, cracked-bone and blood-soaked mayhem, his commanding officers, Roman Zizek and Sarah Cooke, canoodle away back at HQ in a parental glow. In the end, Edward confronts the man behind the plan - Ginsberg Nova - and in finding out his true identity this issue, quickly discovers he might have more in common with his nemesis than he thought. There’s also a bit about teleportation and string theory, so that happened.
I hesitate to start my analysis this way, because it automatically sounds like I’m on the attack, but while I still really enjoyed this issue of Zero, it was not one of the series’ best. In fact, after such an incredible turn last time, this was, dare I say it, something of a disappointment. Even at its most disappointing, however, this is a better book than most others on the stands today, so it may be a simple matter of me holding Zero to a higher standard.
The one really significant thing that hurts this issue, in my opinion, is repetition. I understand the dramatic use of it to recount the (presumed) importance of the “Horse vs. Reality” story at the issue’s start and end, but the word-for-word retelling felt too much like filler, which is strange for Kot. Usually the devices he uses are pregnant, whereas this felt at best unnecessary, and at worst hollow.
Another off-putting exercise in redundancy is the relationship between Zizek and Cooke. Watching their regular misadventures in the postcoital has been interesting, I suppose, but now it’s gotten stagnant, which I’ll grant you may be the point. I understand that Zizek is like a father to Edward, Cooke is his wicked stepmother and they like to rage fuck a lot. We get it, but even though there is a tenderer moment than we are used to this time between these characters, their dynamic is becoming a tad overcooked and I personally would like to see it changed more drastically, or at very least importantly, admitting simultaneously that holding hands is a good, if not exceptional, place to start.
The sci-fi / fantastic elements of this story have already been numerous, from personal teleportation units, evidently immortal men and a rampant, mass fungal infection that somehow threatens the future with gigantic whale-like sack towers, but all of these elements are beginning to feel too scattered, without being grounded with a discernibly-shared purpose. Six issues in may not seem too long a time to develop that story more fully, but I think the dangling strands Kot is leaving all over the place need to be more orderly strung and further tightened.
Saying all of that, this issue is mostly about the action, as we watch Edward tear shit up while wearing a balaclava, which I thought was pretty “on-the-nose” as a visual foil for that of Ginsberg Nova, but that’s fine I guess. Regardless, one thing Kot hasn’t yet let slip is his individual issue-based choice of artist, this time working with Vanesa Del Ray.
Her stuff in Zero #6 is pretty great here; it’s very Matt Kindtian, with a not-unpleasant dash of Ming Doyle (though thankfully without her figure work). It is unfiltered and raw, a scraggily, sifted semblance of order with a flurry of kinetic fury that I really enjoyed. Really great stuff. Also, that variant cover by Nick Dragotta is the shits, son!
Another special mention this issue must go to Clayton Cowles, whose lettering here really stood out for me, especially in the latter stages of Zero’s incursion: it matched the visual direction seamlessly and enhanced that overall hurried feel.
I’m only giving Zero #6 a 3/5, not necessarily because it was “bad,” but because it didn’t do much of anything to capitalize on the amazing setup left at the end of issue five. Coupled with an identity reveal that simply didn’t resound like I think the creator hoped (and one that necessitated a “who the hell is this guy” look-back through old issues), you’d be forgiven for thinking this could have been thrust somewhere in the middle of its inaugural first few issues.
In the end, Zero is a read you should definitely be consuming, but issue six felt like a weird hiccup in an otherwise exceptional feast.
Writer: Ales Kot Artist: Vanesa Del Rey Colorist: Jordie Bellaire Publisher: Image Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 3/19/14