Why do we keep secrets? Why do we withhold necessary, key information? It’s simple; secrets give us leverage. Information becomes withheld when we need to obtain a strategic advantage and assert power and dominance that we did not previously have. We use secrets to ascertain the playing field and determine who has control. Secrets are a power play in the world of information, especially those that are well concealed. Zero #4 deals in those two key aspects of life that intertwine so often: secrets and information.
This will be a mostly spoiler free review of Zero #4.
Edward Zero is a secret agent/spy/ -insert nomenclature for operative here- for a shady government agency. Although he is the protagonist, we don’t know if he is on the path to righteousness. If the future shown all the way back in issue #1 is any indication, the path is a twisted knot with no clear signs of good or evil. In Zero #4, Zero shows signs that indicate he is on the path to heroism, even if that heroism comes with moral compromises. Yet that path may take a turn, as he learns clues as to what his boss Zizek’s (I love that Kot is using the name Zizek here. It just screams a number of implications about the real Zizek) true motives are.
Zero #4 expertly weaves its story around the trading of information and those who deal in secrets, as all these key pieces of information being withheld lead towards a knock-down, drag-out brawl & chase sequence straight out of a James Bond film. It’s a mostly silent sequence in which Zero deals with a revolutionary of sorts that Zizek sent him to kill. The revolutionary isn’t exactly villainous in nature, although he does seem to be a tad bit aggressive. So why is Zero so willing to kill this man? Why is he so willing to blindly follow orders? Because he wants information. It’s his own agenda that leads to him following Zizek unquestioningly.
All of this is so brilliantly illustrated by Morgan Jeske, who Ales Kot previously worked with on Change, Kot’s surrealist science fiction meets hip-hop story. While certainly not as dealing in the weird and grotesque here, Jeske manages to capture the grit and brutality of combat, and the realistic, devastating consequences that combat brings. Jeske’s line-work is layered and wrinkly, giving the comic a look of fleshy, crunchy realism that perfectly fits the tone of the book.
Zero #4 is a layered read dealing with a number of complexities that give the story an amazing depth. Four issues in and the book is already setting up a number of long-term goals for future issues. Here’s hoping that it only gets better and more complex from here.