Review by G. Forrest
An Emergency, written by Ales Kot, could herald the arrival of a classic series or it could end up unveiling a modern emperor’s new clothes, designed to dazzle and confuse but ultimately lacking real substance. This first of four volumes recounting the adventures of superspy Edward Zero certainly creates an impression. The book presents an opening five chapters, with each drawn by a different artist. It brings an interesting individuality and flavour to each episode, while impressive work by the ever reliable Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles on colouring and lettering adds a consistency to the tale.
Kot’s narrative leaps backward and forward through Zero’s life, showing different stages of his career. It opens in 2038 with the aged Zero sitting on the edge of the White Cliffs of Dover, a young child pointing a gun at his head. Zero, seeing the mirror of his own childhood in a boy groomed to be a weapon, will allow the boy to kill him without resistance if he first listens to his story.
And what a story it is. It begins with an Israeli/Palestinian battle between super powered beings before moving onto a tale of Zero’s childhood programming and IRA terrorism. Best of all is the third tale of a terrorist Kickstarter party, a joyous Bondian adventure laced with science fiction. The interaction between Zero and his childhood friend/potential love interest, Mina, is entertaining and the pacing great. The story also introduces the key villain, this book’s Napoleon of terrorism, Ginsberg Nova, a fascinating and welcome addition. Part four delivers an intriguing sit-down between Zero and former agent of the Agency, assassin and Zero analogue, Gareth Carlyle, followed by a cleverly designed, shockingly brutal, wince-inducing fight sequence lasting for thirteen nervy but gripping pages. All credit to artist, Morgan Jeske, for producing such cinematic work. Lastly, we have an expository chapter where we begin to see and understand the turmoil in Zero’s psyche that will eventually lead him to a seat on those Dover cliffs.
Taken individually, each story is terrific and Edward Zero is a fascinating creation, a quiet but intriguing protagonist, a killing machine who appears to be growing more human. His journey is explored with skill and style, the fractured timeline and narrative device working well to allow the reader to put the pieces together – Kot challenges the reader throughout the story, never taking the easy route. An Emergency proves to be a highly entertaining and intelligent introduction to Zero, dusting off old tropes and reinvigorating them for a modern audience. The book shows real promise and Zero’s journey continues in At the Heart of it All.