by Jason Shawn Alexander and Luis Nct
The world in Empty Zone is dark and unsettling. Thanks to the craft of Jason Shawn Alexander, Empty Zone #1 is a moody, trippy and absolutely engaging new series out from Image Comics. The world Alexander has created and presented in this first issue is fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Corinne, the story’s protagonist, brings readers along with her into the seedy and unfamiliar terrain of this universe in this first issue. Alexander’s writing and art create such a vivid world that readers will feel the grime of it on their own skin.
The cover of Empty Zone #1 is intriguing enough on its own and may cause readers to stall for a good bit of time. Corinne’s depiction on the cover is one that will no doubt stand out and raise a number of questions. This is not the present day, for sure, and society has a reached a point where crude robot arms are fused to people as prosthetics. Alexander does not slow from there, presenting an opening page that is as eye-catching and effective as the cover. He does an excellent job throughout the story providing incredible images and curious sequences that give readers pause, taking time to soak it all in. There is something so impressive about the way in which information is conveyed in this first issue.
Once the story begins to move forward, each panel and exchange offer so much in the way of word building. Readers will meet 8, an associate of Corinne’s and her conversation with him, even the technology used to have this conversation, all work towards subtle world building. Alexander never takes a page or sequence to provide insight into this world or the technology at hand. Instead, he credits his audience with the ability to take in the story as it progresses. As such, the setting and creations on display are rich in their implications of the world order of the time. This dystopian, cyberpunk universe is incredibly gritty and grim and for every piece readers realize they do not know, there is so much they will learn in just this opening chapter.
Corinne finds her way to the roof after a stranger appears at her door and the book shifts gears completely. Without explanation or narration, the art becomes something slightly more abstract. Through visual clues, readers will be able to decipher a bit about the sequence, but Alexander does a great job at restricting just how much is being given to readers this early. Hours pass without Corinne noticing and something is seriously amiss. The sequence is the most notable in the first issue, featuring some of the most harrowing images in comics. Alexander, with stunning colors by Luis Nct, depicts this and many other sequences in the books in such a way that is both beautiful and horrible at the same time.
Though the action and pacing of the first issue are impressive, the overall story or aim of Empty Zone are not clear just yet. Corinne, a work-for-hire agent, has some special skills when it comes to the tech world. She ventures to a local bar to meet her mark as assigned by 8. Her aims and the stakes involved are all rather opaque in this opening story. Readers will meet a few other major characters, but the opening chapter is mostly an adjustment into the setting and visual makeup of this new environment. Despite learning very little about the direction of the story, Alexander’s craft and the beautiful color work from Luis Nct deliver an excellent reading experience. For those looking for something unique and with stunning art to boot, Empty Zone #1 is certainly worth a read.