Ales Kot continues to deliver something exciting and different with each issue of Zero, and it’s not just because there’s a different artist every time. This time out, Kot is joined by an artist he’s worked with before, Morgan Jeske (on the OGN, Change, which I still really need to read), to tell what is probably the most personal story for Edward Zero so far, one that really cuts to what Kot’s take on spies is, and also, one of the most violent comics I’ve read in a long time.
The plot here is pretty simple, Edward Zero has been sent to Rio De Janeiro to kill Gareth Carlyle, a man who used to work for the Agency, but has since quit and become the leader of a Brazilian street gang. Zizek suspects that Carlyle is the one who sold Hamas the technology from #1. The issue opens with a long, fascinating conversation between Zero and Carlyle, where Carlyle tells the story of what happened to him after he quit being a spy, how he fell in love, but lost that woman, and then how he decided to form a non-violent gang in the Favelas. Kot is using Carlyle to show Zero in a new light, and to make both him, and the audience, re-evaluate what we know. Carlyle knows all about the manipulations that the agency put their agents through, about all their bad shit, so he’s basically an older, wiser Zero himself. I’m guessing that the events of this issue will lead to the future-Zero we saw in #1.
This conversation ends, and we move to a fight to the death, which is where Kot pretty much drops out of things, and allows Jeske’s artwork to tell the story. For 13 pages, there are only 2 dialogue balloons, and what we basically get is one of the most brutal fights I have ever read in comics, with Zero just pummelling the shit out of Carlyle at the end, and man, especially when he slams his head in with a car door. It was shocking and brutal and awesome. Jeske’s pencils and Bellaire’s colours tell the whole story here. Jeske has a scratchy style, which fully conveys the impact of each hit, and Bellaire contrasts blood-red and yellowish-greenish fluorescent light to great effect. It can be tricky to pull off dialogue-free scenes (remember ‘Nuff Said month? That was hit and miss for sure), but Kot, Jeske and Bellaire deliver big time here.
This story is entitled ‘Vision Impairment’, and it’s in that name where the biggest parallel between Zero and Carlyle is drawn. Carlyle already has an eye-patch, and during their fight, he jams a shard of broken glass into one of Zero’s eyes, leaving them both, well, vision impaired. So, the issue ends with Carlyle dead, but Zero has clearly been effected by these events, Carlyle has him questioning himself and the agency, even going so far as to asking Zizek about his real parents. Will he find out any answers? I very much doubt it. This issue really has me starting to distrust Zizek, he is up to something, and the back-up text story would seem to support that.
This title really is growing into something special I feel. Kot is an exciting new voice in comics, making waves at Marvel now, but this is him unfiltered, delivering his innovative ideas, alongside some great artists, and also some gripping action, although this issue maybe did get a bit too violent.
Plus, if you’re still undecided, this issue contains a link to a free album! I have no idea who Death Grips are (my music taste is not very cutting edge), but with Kot and Zero’s recommendation, I’m excited to find out. Good comics, and free music, it really is Christmas!