Two things about Zed right off the bat; a) there is a lot of comic here, both in page count (282) and content (more about that in a moment), so set aside some time, and b) if you cant handle cute cinematic style animation (Gagne has a background in production animation), this book may prove to be a bit difficult for you. So if neither of those things are problematic for you then you may find yourself reading a story that is entertaining, with a creator attempting to weave a tale that confronts politics, relationships, and religion.
Zed is an inventor, a dreamer, that in the opening chapter has gone to the planet Xandria to present his new invention. Xandria is a utopia for unification in Gagne’s universe, a “place where economics, religion, music, culture, sports, science, and politics convey and co-exist.” Zed’s invention is an energizer, which converts rocks into energy to help an energy crisis through “techno-alchemy.” However, the experiment goes wrong, but not wrong on a base degree; nay, dear reader, the experiment goes wrong to the tenth degree, as it ends up malfunctioning and destroys the entire planet.
From here the story begins to take its complicated turns into its various weighty subject matters. Zed’s experimental flaw is the work of sabotage, and the perpetrator is revealed to be a power hungry, money driven general named Maxuss, who leads the planet Metalia. Zed and the good guys find out that Maxuss was behind the sabotage, but unfortunately this leads to Zed being killed…sort of. The hook of Zed staying alive is a major plot point of the book, so I don’t want to give it away here, but I will say it centers on the idea of the unification of all things in the universe…and meeting God (take a minute to process that).
Gagne’s drawing style is clean and feature film quality, not surprising as he has contributed to animated work for Disney, Warner Brothers, and Pixar. Sometimes this caused me to be distracted, and that is probably in large part due to conditioning from growing up viewing such animation and remaining a fan. The distractions range from when cutely drawn characters tear each other asunder with weapons or hands(which happens multiple times) and alien penis. Yep. You did not misread that one. Little Zed is in good shape downstairs, and we get a good look at it. That particular panel makes me pause for a moment to say, hmmm, what is the point of this image other than a cheap laugh or a shock? I am critical of it because Gagne’s style works really well when there is emotion involved, from crying to anger. Think back to all those wonderful humanized animated animals form childhood—could you not be moved when the fluffy, droopy-eared dog cries for its momma? Same effect here. Manipulations aside, Gagne is a very accomplished pencil and ink man, and the way he renders big moments (like the destruction of a planet) is pleasing and reminded me yet again about the power an artist can have when they know how to work without a color palette.
Zed took over a decade to create and came out slowly in single issues within that time frame. Gagne’s story and execution has problems, and sometimes it feels as if it is trying to tackle subjects much too large for the size of the story as it stands. However, it is nice to see a creator-owned book collected that showcases a much more accessible style for those that are probably intimated by the presentation of most American comics.