By Ales Kot, Michael Gaydos, Jordie Bellaire & Clayton Cowles
It feels like it has been a long time since the series Zero has shown its lead character. After Edward Zero walked away from the agency a few issues ago, the series has dealt with some of its other major characters. Here, not only does the series return to the story of Edward Zero, but it reintroduces him by returning to the opening scene of the series. It’s 2038 and a balding Zero sits at gun point. He asks the boy about the Switch. Without any context, the story jumps back to the progressing plot. It’s 2021 Iceland, and the man Zero is trying to find his way through life without the missions, the targets, and the orders. What does a human being do after thirty years of living like a machine?
Edward has changed his name and now goes by Roland. He talks to the boy, though it functions just as a narrator would speak to the audience, and he speaks about his attempts to fit in, to learn to be a regular guy. The deadly assassin has taken up a job in a restaurant. The combination of his narration and the visuals, through the fantastic art of Michael Gaydos, depict the routine that most readers know quite well. Wake up, shower, eat, work, socialize, sleep. It’s unnatural to Zero and it is fascinating to watch his experience with what any reader would consider status quo. There is an interesting idea of this new life being framed as a mission on its own. An impressive operative, Zero approaches this new lifestyle as any other operation. He infiltrates, assesses the population, learns the language, assumes an identity and a role, but for no purpose. While he may approach the new life in the same as a previous mission, there is no objective and there is no completing this one.
Michael Gaydos, whom readers may know from his work on Alias, does a great job with this issue. Ales Kot allows much of the routine to be depicted without much in the way of words. The stages of the day and the weeks are familiar enough to the reader that little else is needed. Gaydos walks the reader through this lifestyle in large panels and the reader feels the boredom and redundancy seeping through. Jordie Bellaire’s colors, the consistency in the art of the series, furthers the sense of monotony. The overall hue and coloring to the scenes and objects in them are mostly muted colors, and set against a snowy backdrop, there is a quietness to the entire thing. As the issue progresses, Zero lets the boy and the reader in a bit more as to how he struggled to adjust and there is a truly harrowing moment when he touches on the nightmares he had. The moment is brief but it’s amazingly impactful and unsettling.
The issue wraps up with a very strange conversation in the town square. Zero finds himself amongst the people of this small community and attempts to offer a man money, as he appears to be in need. Zero is interrupted by a blonde woman who explains that the old man is simply playing a role, that the people are all acting and each one has their own part. It is an incredibly strange sequence that can be read in a number of ways. After several rereads of the sequence, it only seems to expand in its possible purpose. Kot excels with this type of layered writing and the final sequence of the issue is likely to land with readers in a number of ways. The dialogue, though, holds weight in a metaphorical sense regardless of how the reader takes the scene. The idea that all of the people are simply playing roles and that no one is truly themselves when they step into the light is a fascinating commentary on both the immediate situation that Zero has found himself in as well as a commentary on social situations at large. This is a subtle issue that takes a step back from the war and agency stories. However, through Kot’s impressive craft and the art from Gaydos and Bellaire, Zero #10 is still as good as the best entries in the series.