by Ales Kot, Ricardo Lopez Ortiz, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles
It’s been a year. Edward Zero has left the agency, the only life he has known. The second volume of this fantastic series ended with an incredible philosophical issue as Zero disappeared to Iceland in an attempt to start over. Every movement he has made since early childhood has been trained planned and considered. Every interaction has been intentional and precise. Now, he tries to learn how to be a person, to find other purposes in his days and in the people around him. A year has gone by. But part of the reason he is having trouble leaving his past behind is that it seems to be following him. With Ricardo Lopex Ortiz, Kot delivers a fast paced issue that showcases a very different Zero and hints at a new direction.
From the very beginning, the issue adopts a unique style. A banner hangs over the opening page, depicting a day counter. It is unclear if this counter represents the number of days that Zero has been in this home, or with this person, but it establishes a tone and a pace that works well throughout the issue. At first, Zero and Siobhan Penn love the mere company of each other. The stage of infatuation has set in. Ortiz’s pages have only a few panels on them, and readers will move through the days quickly. The images are raw, and they feel honest. Though the character designs are not picturesque, Ortiz’s rendering of Zero and Penn provide such clear communication through their facial expressions and physicality. Paired with his choices of scene-setting panels and perspectives, the images need little written word to tell the reader a lot about the scenes. Naturally, the initial attraction begins to weaken as the days pass. Eventually, Kot brings readers to a scene that captures, very succinctly, how the years of training Zero has had make every day a challenge.
The scene, one that depicts moments of the couple’s daily routine, implies much about Zero’s state of mind in this new life. Siobhan and Zero have a number of chickens and Siobhan remarks on how forgetting small aspects of her care of these animals has an impact on their eggs. These little moments, when people believe that their intricacies, their unique attributes and actions, generate lasting and impacting effects on other things speak to something greater than this interaction. People want to believe that what they do matters beyond the immediate function. By contrast, Zero, a man who is closer to machine, reacts in a way that calls out the action as meaningless. His training will not allow him to be caught up in anything as farfetched as these romanticized concepts. It is a small moment, but one that certainly nods to what still exists beneath the surface.
As the day’s press on, who Zero is seems to continue to emerge through the cracks. Eventually, he arrives home to find people waiting for him to take him out. Kot scripts a sequence that Ortiz and Jordie Bellaire handle skillfully. Staying with the low number of panels per page, and removing any dialogue for much of the encounter, the pace of the action takes hold and readers will be speeding through this high-octane combat. Ortiz’s raw-looking artwork contributes to the brutality of the fight scene. As the dialogue returns and the battle approaches resolution, Zero barks out, almost in desperation, a request that feels unlike him. After panels and panels that would hint at the man underneath still very much being who Zero is the culmination of this attack suggests something very different. Kot’s ability to capture the subtle pieces of personality that exists beneath what is on display; his depiction of a man attempting to change feels incredibly honest. The choice of Ricardo Lopez Ortiz for this issue is a fantastic match.
There is still much to learn witness and explore in Zero in order to find out how the story will reach its opening scene. Though little has been done in several issues to hint at the changes in the larger world, the growing anticipation and ongoing development of Edward Zero as a character have captivated in unexpected ways. Kot is putting out some of the best work in comics right now with a growing list of artists who bring something unique to every chapter.