Friday, 14 August 2015

Deep Sequencing: Zero Repetition

Or a look at the diversity and aplomb of some of the art from Zero Vol. 3
by Ales Kot, Ricardo Lopez Ortiz, Adam Gorham, Alberto Ponticelli, Marek Oieksicki, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles; Image Comics

Zero is an achingly sincere, brightly subversive, and horrifically violent Sci-fi espionage comic. The ongoing story about Edward Zero, a deeply broken secret agent programmed from childhood to be a killing tool, is fascinating and a comic that I highly recommend as a pure reading experience. It is also a comic that is a great example of an art showcase: every chapter of Zero features a different penciller with a dramatically different style. A style that series writer Ales Kot seems to craf a perfect script for and superstar colourist Jordie Bellaire adds the perfect finishing touch to. And the result is a comic that is a great Spy comic that is also one of the best art anthology comics I've read.

So I thought I would take a look at some examples of the diverse and fantastic artwork from Zero Vol. 3 and the way each artist's style is used to create a distinct chapter of the story.

There will be *SPOILERS*.

The first chapter of Zero Vol. 3 is drawn by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz and is this fantastic lesson in tension. The story of the issue is one where Agent Zero, living a civilian life in Iceland, is waiting for the other shoe to drop and to be attacked by The Agency he escaped from. The story shows Edward living an idyllic life, living on a farm with a beautiful young woman and yet everything about the comic screams THE SHIT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. And this is hugely pulled off by style: Ortiz brings this squinty, clenched quality to every panel of the story making the story feel flexed on the edge of catastrophe. Take the above selection where Edward, encouraged by his bubbly lover, is petting the chickens to make for happier eggs: the poses are hunched, Edward is scowling, and in the distance a volcano explodes while the background darkens into a concentrative loom. It's a scene depicting happy chickens being pet, and yet everything feels like the end of the world. It is absolutely brilliant comics.

The second chapter features pencils by Adam Gorham. The story of this chapter sees Edward Zero travel to a house in The United Kingdom infested with some sort of mind-assimilating fungal spore. The sequences around this segment of story are pure rot-horror. What I love about the artwork in this portion of the story, particularly the above selection, is how Gorham's clean and meticulous style juxtapose with the creeping chaos of the creeping fungus: we can see the underlying clean structure as well as the many tiny spores and mushroom caps and climbing molds that are trying to conquer everything in the room. Another thing I love about the above selection is how all of the tiny boxes simultaneously call attention to the finer details of the rot and also lend the page a huge amount of motion as things seemingly grow and spread and creep and drip through the page. It gives the page a sense of urgency and the fungus a ruthless, predatory presence it would otherwise be lacking. Which comes largely from the very smart, very distinct style of this chapter.

The final two chapters in Zero Vol. 3 are drawn by Alberto Ponticelli and Marek Oleksicki. These two artists are masters of brutal violence and do an amazing job capturing the horrendous, gut turning violence of these chapters. Zero is a comic that portrays it's violence not as noble performance art, but bloody, destructive, and disgusting episodes of the worst humanity has to offer. And both Ponticelli and Oleksicki really rise to the occasion delivering two of the most gloriously uncomfortable and best composed fight scenes I've ever read. I actually felt queasy and hot with animal fury at the end of each. I especially love how Ponticelli, above left, builds panel flow into his compositions giving his fight scene a speed and visceral directness that gives that chapter a feeling of people rapidly and viciously hurting each other . Oleksicki is just as impressive using layouts that are fractured, filled with surprising, disjointed vectors. This choice gives the fight in the final chapter a choppy, lurching quality that matches the story of two men animalistically tearing each other apart in this drawn out and oddly intimate way. It's spectacularly awful. Which again is a showcase of great artists using their respective styles to portray really skillful comics stories.

Which I think really speaks to a maybe under-appreciated strength of comics as a medium. Unlike most other storytelling mediums, particularly visual ones, comics have the lowest cost of radically altering styles between chapters. In movies, television, and animation, the time and monetary costs of radically altering the visual look of a project is steep. Comics, with their small creative teams and nigh endless-content budget, have a freedom to experiment with variety that is maybe unique to them. And this allows for comics with a serialized, common story to showcase tense chicken petting, ornate sci-fi horror, and nauseating acts of human destruction all in the same book. Which is pretty cool.

Zero, as a series, is really great at this, which is yet another reason you ought to be reading this comic.

So I Read Zero: Vol. 1
So I Read Zero: Vol. 2
So I Read Zero: Vol. 3

Deep Sequencing: Brutal Action
Deep Sequencing: Gun fight!
Deep Sequencing: Zero Atlas

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