By Ales Kot, Adam Gorham, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles
The story of Edward Zero through the pages of Ales Kot’s fantastic series has been spread out over a bit more than a year at this point. As the series has progressed, the timelines has been closing the gap between the opening pages of the series and the story that Edward has been telling on the cliffs of Dover. In the final chapter of the second arc, the story finds Edward back in the field, visiting an outbreak site and so much of the story so far begins to come together. The issue provides clarity and answers to many things and certainly frames previous events in completely new ways. And yet, even with all of this progress, Kot still manages to shroud so much in opaque clouds. The disjointed story telling and overall construction of Zero thus far make this type of seemingly contradictory issue possible. As a result, it is one of the best of the series while still being simultaneously maddening.
Chaz, when readers meet him, is a fast talking, seemingly Scottish individual at the center of a contamination site. It’s 2025, and Zero has come to the United Kingdom on assignment. Five years after his decision to quit, to kill his handler and leave the agency, Zero has somehow been convinced to return. As the story has progressed, these unmentioned but visible gaps in the story of Zero’s life make for very curious absences. Kot’s meticulous crafting of the series allows for the story to move ever forward, but subtly leave pieces out to allow the reader to wonder, guess and imagine what has occurred. It’s certainly not a focus, and yet it is just another layer to the wonderful series.
This time around, Kot has brought in artist Adam Gorham to illustrate the events of the chapter. Drenched in an unsettling green, Jordie Bellaire and Adam Gorham depict a scene that is bizarre and rather unsettling. Something has happened and this site has left all in the home affected by some plant mutation. All, that is, except for Chaz. For much of this first portion of the chapter, Zero listens as Chaz explains a bit about who he was and what has happened. The script and monologue that Kot has crafted are impressively visual. Though none of what Chaz describes is depicted, the visual language utilized is enough to conjure up very specific images. Not to waste the space, the art team instead dresses up the entire conversation with shots of the growth throughout the house. The fusion of the two make for an excellent sequence.
Still not to give away just what convinced Zero to come back to The Agency he so desperately tried to escape, the story finds Zero sitting across from Sarah Cooke who tells him that he is the key, that he was able to break the training and they want him to do the same for those still in the program. Cooke asserts that The Agency still has its purposes and goals, but never lets on to what those are. The perfectly non-descriptive title of the outfit itself is only more glaringly noticeable as its unwillingness to give any information about what it exists to do, who The Agency is loyal to and how long has it been in existence. But while many questions continue to run through the series, the moments following this conversation and those that close out this arc are what really make an impact. Cooke hands over a file to Zero and explains that it is his own file, with nothing left out. The following series of pages depict a number of panels cutting between the grounds of the agency, rooms with in it and the contents of the file.
The entire sequence is handled in silence as Kot leaves the images to speak for themselves. Kot has, time and again, shown his sense of restraint and trust in his artists. This sequence is no different and Adam Gordham and Jordan Bellaire do an excellent job capturing the tone and emotion necessary to bring the weight the conclusion aims for. As unsettling as the house was, Gorham captures the emotion of this sequence in an even more impressive way. The combination of varying images and perspectives used over the sequence are chosen carefully. It’s not the expected array of visuals and somehow, this series is more effective as a result.
The final moments of this issue ripple back through the entirety of the series. The color so many of the preceding events in a different way. Readers may find themselves revisiting many events in the past, or even rereading the entire twelve chapters. With what comes in the final pages, so many mentions and instances that meant little before now connect. It is fascinating how one page, after a year of storytelling can have that kind of effect. And yet, even with this new enlightenment and view of the events of the story, a significant number of uncertainties exist. Possibly, now, even more questions are at play than before. It’s a strange place to feel as though both resolution and unrest come of the same action. However, just as the final moments of the first arc left readers buzzing with crazed after a massive and unexpected ending, issue twelve shook the snow globe once more.