Zero is the newest ongoing from writer Ales Kot and penciller Michael Walsh, published by Image Comics. It’s a near future story about a government agent, Edward Zero, who is sent into dangerous or violent situations to steal something, kill someone, or whatever his handlers need him to do. In thefirst issue, Zero’s mission is to retrieve a piece of Agency tech implanted in a biomodified Hamas soldier who is in the middle of a brutal multihour fight with a similarly modified Israeli soldier in an unnamed Palestinian city. Zero’s orders? No identification, avoid capture and avoid casualties. Unless necessary.
Casualties end up being necessary.
I liked Zero a lot. I’m a sucker for well told single issue stories and Zero is that in spades. Kot efficiently sets up Zero, the setting and the mission within the first few pages, before the action kicks in as Zero encounters the two modified soldiers fighting each other. Kot does a nice trick here, showing a brutal “super-powered” fight from the edges, as Zero tries to keep up and do his job. There’s precious little dialogue in this sequence, and most of the book is framed by Zero’s internal monologue/narration. The only other significant characters are Zero’s handlers who are monitoring the mission from London.
I’ll digress here to say that Zero reminded me a lot of Global Frequency, the Warren Ellis Wildstorm maxi-series from 2002. That series was typified by single issue stories featuring a small group of specialists working to stop some sort of imminent threat. Ellis would drop the reader into an existing high-stakes situation, punch through some exposition via a mission briefing and then be off to the races. Zero seems to be cut from the same cloth. That’s not to say Kot is aping Ellis in any way, it’s just an easy way to recommend Zero. If you enjoyed Global Frequency, you’ll certainly enjoy this.
The penciller for Zero is Michael Walsh, whose work I haven’t seen before. His style reminds me of Mitch Gerads, who pencils Image's The Activity, or the style Steve Lieber used in his recent issue of Hawkeye. Faces are expressive and well drawn; action is clear and easy to follow. Walsh even puts a ski mask on one of the two battling soldiers so it’s easy to tell who’s who in an otherwise chaotic battle. The battle itself is well staged, there are no fancy layouts to obfuscate the action, and when it evolves into a foot chase you can tell who's running after who and where they’re going. Clear storytelling is an unsung hero in comics and Walsh certainly has the talent.
There’s a lot to recommend in Zero #1, it’s a great, action-packed single issue story and Kot also lays out some hints as to where he’s taking the larger narrative. I’m definitely on board for issue two.