It seems sad but it’s often true that American citizens fetishize the concept of war and that the phrase “fighting for your country” gets turned into propagandist sloganeering by the very same teenagers and adults who treat war and combat as a thing of glory, pride, and even fun. The ideas and concepts of war are absorbed into these people’s heads as something entertaining. I’m sure an actual soldier would tell you that war, no matter how fun it may seem in the latest first-person shooter game, is not actually all that fun or entertaining. So when did killing each other in mass slaughters become an expression of joy?*
Zero #1 by Ales Kot and Michael Walsh to me seems like an attempt to tell both an entertaining war/spy story, and an attempt to show us that treating war and violence as a thing to be praised and loved is inherently wrong. We start the story where it ends (in a sort of quasi-ironic twist) as our lead, Edward Zero, is about to be killed by what is presumably a child soldier in training, showing off the cyclical nature of fictional military recruiting. The lead, in his wiser and older years, wants to tell his story to the kid first, presumably to lead him astray from the path of madness and violence he would possibly go down. This kind of fictional meta-commentary that’s ever present in the whole issue is thought-provoking and credit goes to Kot for being one of the few modern comic creators to actively challenge the typical way of thought among both non-comics readers and those who do read them.
Apart from the ongoing meta-commentary, the writing and the story are entertaining in and of themselves. Kot carries over elements from his short-lived Suicide Squad run over at DC by writing clever inner monologues and action packed battle scenes. These are broken up by interludes (more like inter-lewd) involving two high-end officials musing over the agent and eventually having intercourse with each other (while still musing over Zero). Kot’s pacing here cleverly breaks up the tension from the gratuitous violence and offers a brief reprisal of humor. I was a tad wigged out at how much humor there was in a book that’s heavy on commentary and analysis. I often found myself smirking or giggling at the subtle jokes and cleverly set-up scenes.
Some of that humor is illustrated in Michael Walsh’s visuals, such as when Edward Zero is doing a rooftop chase across what I believe to be Israel, and while the person he’s chasing runs from rooftop to rooftop successfully, he slips on the edge, and hits his head. It’s a great subversion of a classic storytelling trope that had me giggling. Elsewhere, Walsh’s pencils are awash with a strong, solid thickness reminiscent of the best works of Aja and Mazzuchelli, which is in turn helped out by the strong, muscular inking he implements. He definitely seems to come from the same school of punctual, sequential panel-by-panel art as they do, and it gives the book a unique flair as to the looks of characters. The environments are also gorgeously rendered, with help by colorist Jordie Bellaire in making Israel subtly explode with an eye-popping helping of varying shades of brown and red. It’s the most I’ve ever enjoyed looking at a war-torn environment, with dual airs of simplicity and complexity intertwining to craft a gorgeous looking piece. It’s amazing that Kot lets Walsh and Bellaire do most of the storytelling, with the words only serving to add extra meat to the story.
Kot’s seemingly anti-war commentary is very strongly put out here, and I can’t help but admire a man who wears his politics on his sleeve. It’s a testament to the fact that very few creators in the industry are willing to make themselves stand out as individuals by radically differing from the norm set of standards. Zero #1 wears its heart on its sleeve, and is one of the few brave, new on-goings out on the market right now. Go and pick up a copy as soon as you can.
*Note: My views do not necessarily express the views of the rest of the site, and for that matter, you who are reading this.