Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Michael Gaydos
Publisher: Image Comics
I’m ashamed to say that twelve pages into “Zero #10,” the Image Comics series about an ex-secret agent from Ales Kot and a rotating cast of artists, I was furious. “I’m giving this book a 0 out of 10,” I thought to myself smugly. “10 straight pages of wordless scene setting? Who do these guys think they are, Warren Ellis?” I continued, handsomely. And then page 13 hit, and “Zero #10” continued on to become one of the best standalone issues of the year, and I felt like a backwater Philistine (not the first time). Kot and Gaydos have churned out an impressively ambitious single issue in “Zero #10” and another strong reason to give Zero your attention.
Of course, calling “Zero #10” a standalone issue may be a bit misleading. There is some back-story here involving Edward Zero, our Jason Bourne-esque main character, but it’s less necessary than you might think. In “Zero #10,” Edward is hiding out in a quaint, snow-covered village, speaking Scandinavian with fry cooks and living an otherwise innocuous and typical life. How’d he get there? Having read Zero only sporadically (looking more and more like a mistake I need to rectify), I only know that the secret agent game has turned out poorly for Agent Zero and he’s on the lamb, possibly from his own people. Honestly, it barely matters. Edward Zero is Walter White in his snowy isolation chamber, reliant on routine and memory to keep him moving forward.
Enter the aforementioned 10 pages of wordless daily routine as Michael Gaydos showcases Zero in his new home life. “Get up, get out of bed, drag a comb across my head” is Zero’s new mantra. Gaydos mirrors the grit and realism of a David Aja or Sean Phillips, with Zero particularly looking like a certain Hawkguy character from the right angle. Although they infuriated me initially, these extended pages of quiet contemplation and no dialogue or internal monologue pace the issue beautifully. We’re given a mysterious flash forward before we see Zero, with a man from the future sharing elusive prophecies, followed by Zero’s own horrific dreams. The quiet downtime reminds us where Zero is in his life now, with the foreshadowing beginning serving as a reminder that his life is never as peaceful as it seems.
The real turn here, though, comes in the book’s second half. I won’t spoil the development, but suffice it to say that the plot twist is straight out of the Twilight Zone playbook. Kot uses a reality-altering shift in perspective to make us as readers question everything we’re viewing. How much of this is real? What in the actual heck is happening to Zero here? It’s a completely bewildering and fascinating philosophical conversation that exudes the kind of delicious mystery early episodes of Lost showcased in abundance.
I’ll admit it; I was wrong. “Zero #10” is a great single issue, and every time I’ve taken a look at an issue of Zero I’ve been uniformly impressed. With so many comic books mired in their own continuity and plotting, churning out a single issue that anyone can pick up and enjoy is tremendously impressive, and Kot and Gaydos have done that here. Check out Zero. You won’t regret it.
“Zero #10” earns 8.8 / 10