by Ales Kot, Vanesa Del Rey, Jordie Bellaire, Clayton Cowles
In some ways it is hard to pinpoint why Zero is as engaging a story as it has turned out to be. The series utilizes a different artist on each issue. In that way, the book does not sustain much of a visual identity. In addition, there are very few characters, yet after six issues readers know almost nothing about any of them. These would typically be identified as major problems for a series. Instead, Kot has found a way to use these elements as aspects of what makes it so fantastic.
While Zero involves some fantastical elements, Kot has managed to script a story that feels relatively grounded. The missions, the calculated interactions and the transcribed transmissions between Zero and Zizek all play a very tactically sound spy story. They are each so well done that readers may forget that Ginsberg Nova had built a teleporter back in issue three. And as issue five concluded, the reveal could almost seem out of place if it were not handled so well. Instead, the final pages simply raised a lot of questions. Those questions remain unanswered as issue six dives into another mission.
Here, Zero is tasked with infiltrating CERN after it had been overtaken by an unidentified group. The story shifts between Zero’s mission and Zizek in the control room. Visually, Vanesa Del Rey’s decision to cut back and forth between the two stories lends to some really strong sequences. Zizek and Sarah sit in a room illuminated by only monitors and the panels maintain a strong, low blue tone. This half of the story is a great constant, and it uses pretty normative paneling. This is juxtaposed with panels of Zero’s takeover of CERN. The coloring shifts depending on his location and the panel’s vantage point. From night vision green, to siren-light red, there is a ton of energy communicated by Jordie Bellaire. Similarly, Del Rey’s panel layouts shift from grids, to interspersed vertical and horizontal frames to diagonal frames. The urgency and precision of this mission is communicated perfectly.
As the story comes to a conclusion, the pages almost glow. Zero comes face to face with Ginsberg Nova and meets the man under the mask. Electricity flares and the climax is incredibly well handled. All along the issue refers to something known as a phase shift and it is quite curious. Frantic imagery is utilized in the opening pages and a poetic, even haunting sensation pervades as the issue returns to it in its conclusion. As Zero struggles to reach his foe, readers will struggle to understand what they are seeing and what it all means. The story raises questions the readers feel like they should be able to answer and it makes for a maddening and very effective ending.
A man at the end of his life had a story to tell. After six issues of Zero, readers will not just wonder what else he has to say, but desperately hope the trigger remains still long enough to understand it all.