Written by: Ales Kot
Art by: Tonci Zonjic
Published by: Image Comics
“Zero #9” is a comic that strikes a balance between telling a powerful, emotional story and standing at arms-length from the rest of the series so far. The great news is that issues like this, while confusing in their relevance to the main saga in the moment, usually end up being one of the most important chapters in the story. This issue may have revealed several important key plot pieces and at the very least featured a story from Kot that is arguably his most gut-punchingly shocking yet. Tonci Zonjic takes the reins artistically and turns in a taut, no-nonsense issue that becomes the most important story-telling device for “Zero #9.”
Zonjic did a great job with this issue considering how heavily Kot relied on him to tell the story. Before you know it this comic is over; the fast pace is pleasant in its readability but unpleasant in that the structure prevents you from marinating very long on what is unfolding in front of you. Zonjic does a great job in framing his shots and executing lay-outs with sleek designs that aren’t order-burdened by detail. One of the draws for this series so far, at least for me, is the fact that we can always expect a new artistic interpretation each week. That statement flies in the face of what I normally think: that art changes disrupt the flow of the story and prevent immersion into the experience. However, Zero is the exception, not the rule.
The plot lulls you into thinking that it’s a relatively straightforward story about a weapons dealer who sells to factions on all sides of the war that took place in Bosnia in the 1990s. The story proceeds under this somewhat innocuous premise. Just when you think you’ve got this thing figured out a curveball shatters your previous perceptions and challenges you with the harsh reality of human conflict. A week after events became more complicated in the Ukraine and the Israel-Palestine conflict reignited, “Zero #9” reminds us of the unpleasant truth to the statement: all is fair in love and war.
The story clicks along quickly and provides a shocking level of ethos to Roman, Zero’s handler. This character is clearly deeper than we first imagined and pulling the rug out from under our assumptions was a veteran move by Kot. Since “Zero #9” is over before you know it, the impact of the final pages may take a minute to sink in; after you’ve closed the book, set it in your lap and breathed a sigh. Once those last pages manage to hit home, you’re left to shake your head at such a wonderfully composed short story that will be one of the most under-appreciated comics of the week. With San Diego Comic-Con this week and massive news flooding our site and others like it, it’s easy to lose a story as small as “Zero #9” but that doesn’t mean that we should. Rarely do comics have something so dangerously relevant to our world that they break down the walls of fiction and comment on the unpleasant parts of our history but this is effortlessly achieved by Kot and Zonjic this week. I’m not going to give away the ending in order to better explain its power but if you read this issue you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Zonjic pulled off one of the best issues that this series has ever seen. His ability to tell the story right along with Kot helped make this installment so incredible. It doesn’t have the flash or shine of some of the bigger name comics but Zero features a depth of story-telling that eludes many of those same titles. In a market where great creator-owned comics are becoming more heralded and more prominent with every passing month, here’s to hoping that someday soon Zero gets the credit it so sorely deserves.
“Zero #9” earns 9.2 / 10