After the violent and drastic events of the last few issues, Edward Zero finds himself seeking a new life in Iceland. There, he reflects on the turns his journey has taken and manages to find a spot of warmth in a country blanketed in snow. Check out our spoiler-free review below.
Written by Ales Kot
Illustrated by Michael Gaydos
Over the past nine issues, Ales Kot, Jordie Bellaire and their harem of illustrators have created one of the most action-packed spy stories on the comics page with “Zero”. With its latest issue, the series slows down to reflect on where Edward is at following the violence he’s experienced lately and finds him utterly damaged.
The examination of the psychological scars left by war has long been a presence in the background of Kot’s story, but here we’re given a front row seat to how far Zero has fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole, and how hard it is for him to climb out. Even when Zero finds a routine to help give him more stability than he’s ever had in his life, it doesn’t help dissipate the disturbing dreams and vision he’s had (or possibly lived through). The agent we’re presented here is vulnerable in ways he was never prepared for; ready to take down any spies who aren’t even there but unable to let anyone into the house of cards he’s trying to keep from falling.
This impotency is brilliantly displayed in the surprising lack of violence in this issue. Aside from flashbacks (and flash forwards), “Zero” #10 is the most blood-free issue of the series yet which furthers the fish-out-of-water situation Zero has found himself in. There are no spies to stab, files to steal, countries to save. There’s just small villages covered in snow and the fear of a calm life. But while other retired heroes like Nick Fury in “Fury MAX” or Mr. Incredible boldly fight against domestication, Edward tries to accept it only to fail. He’s a product of a different world and simply partying with co-workers is as foreign to him as infiltrating a military base would be to many of us.
One of Kot’s biggest strengths as a writer has always been discussing the nature of empathy and the connections people make and try to hold on to (if you don’t believe me, just read “Change”) and, if I haven’t made it clear already, it’s a topic expertly dissected in this issue. By isolating Zero from his supporting cast (many of whom are admittedly now dead), we’re given a look into the character that we’ve never truly gotten alone time with. And for a series that’s built itself around war, “Zero” #10 finds some truly poignant moments in peaceful life before heading into a surreal encounter between Zero and some actors in an Icelandic town square.
The setting also furthers the loneliness of Zero’s current condition but in a way that’s surprisingly relaxed. While Iceland is a cruel landscape of snow and frost, cooled down considerably by Jordie’s frozen palette, the town Zero (or Roland) blends into is refreshingly warm. It is, Edward’s extreme anxiety aside, the type of town where one could settle into and enjoy a completely new life. But Edward’s a grizzled and hard figure compared to some of the happier residents in the town; not different enough to be an outcast but enough that he can see it within himself. Gaydos does a superb job of illustrating the pathos running through Zero’s head in addition to some of the beautiful sweeping landscapes and disturbing visions.
Of course, the issue doesn’t just focus on Zero twiddling his thumbs and feeling sad about his current predicament. The issue culminates with the aforementioned encounter in the town square which, without spoiling anything, is one of the most beautiful scenes of the week. In a delightfully Brechtian moment drenched with ambiguity, Edward is given the means to truly reflect on himself, on how things could’ve gone and how they did. I really don’t want to discuss this scene too much because, really, just go read this comic, but the final moments of this scene really illustrate what “Zero” can be when it’s at its best: a smart and exhilarating discussion of the tropes of war that doesn’t lose itself to them.Continued below
War stories are often obsessed with violence, even when dealing with the aftershocks of battle. Yet, the punches in “Zero” land just as hard when dealing with simpler encounters like two men talking on a bench, especially with the rapturous expressions Gaydos infuses into his characters. “Zero” #10, and the series itself, isn’t interested too much in the typical thrills spy stories often concern themselves with, but is instead crying out to have a sincere conversation on PTSD and alienation on a universal level.
And what a touching conversation it is.
Final Verdict: 9.2 – I urge anyone who reads this book to re-read it with the Psychic TV song Kot quotes on the final page. Really, every aspect of this issue works together.