This issue marks the end of Zero’s first ‘story arc’, although since each issue has been a standalone, it’s hard to really call it that. What I mean is that, the book is taking a break for a month, and then will be back for #6, so this is the end of the first trade. Because of this, Ales Kot is starting to tie in a lot of different plot threads from previous issues, and also showing us what’s coming in the future for this title, and it certainly is surprising.
The issue begins with our first visit to the year 2038 since #1, with an older Zero still sitting on the edge of the White Cliffs of Dover, with a young man pointing a gun at him as he tries to explain himself.
Back in the ‘present’ of 2019, Zero is recovering from the events of #4, where he lost an eye. He is talking to Zizek about his parents, and admits that he started thinking about them after Mina died in #3, and that he’s dreaming of them. In a very evocative 4-page wordless sequence, we see that Zero is having trouble sleeping, and when he looks out of his window at night, he sees Ginsberg Nova waving at him. Is Nova really there? Or is it just a hallucination? I especially loved the page where Zero is just lying in bed touching all of his various scars, a great way to show, not tell us, the impact of his profession.
We then transition over to Zizek and his boss/lover Sara Cooke, as she plans on going to interview Zero and find out if he’s ready to go back into action, or if he should be… dealt with. I’m finding the relationship and interaction between Zizek and Cooke to be very interesting indeed, I can’t tell who’s playing who, or who’s worse. Cooke’s interrogation of Zero is a gripping scene, especially when she calls back to #1, and Zero’s killing of the Israeli soldier. We thought each of these issues was standalone, but they really weren’t, they are all building to something, and all of the lies are going to come crashing down on everyone’s heads.
Will Tempest’s art was fantastic in this scene, and throughout, he has a simple style that is perfect for Zero’s blank, emotionless facial expressions used throughout the issue. Cooke can’t work out what’s going on inside his head, and neither can we. Jordie Bellaire’s colours, the artistic constant on this title, also play a large role, as they are washed out and grey, showing the sparseness of the Agency’s buildings, and also perhaps of Zero’s senses. Using a different penciler but the same colourist every issue has been a very smart choice.
The Cooke/Zizek relationship takes a turn after this, as she takes her to task for her questioning of Zero, she responds by brutally chopping Zizek in his neck and choking him. I thought Zizek was a bit dodgy before now, but at this point, it looks like Cooke is the real villain here, she’s certainly a fascinating character, she looks like an ordinary businesswoman, but she has a real edge. To stick it to Cooke, Zizek then decides to take Zero to see another thing the Agency is working on in a secret facility, which turns out to be some kind of horrific genetic tampering and cloning facility, which is creating all sorts of weird, bulbous humanoid monsters.
This book is taking a sharp-right into full-on sci-fi, and I’m loving it, and it gets even better with the last few pages, which once again take us to 2038. We find out that the boy pointing a gun at Zero is his son, and also that Zero’s real name is Edward Stoikovic, and best of all, we get to see what’s out at sea… a bunch of weird, bulbous plant monsters walking around. It looks like these are related to the experiments going on in 2019. This ending floored me, and much like in Scott Snyder’s The Wake, showed just how large the scale of this series is. Kot isn’t just exploring modern-day espionage and politics, he’s doing something much bigger.
I urge everyone to pick up the first Zero collection, this is one of the best, most vital and visually exciting comics of recent times, and everyone should be reading it.