I challenge you to read Change by Ales Kot and then explain it to me. It was an incredibly ethereal and non-sequential book that covered so may themes incompletely. It was actually a joy to read once you let go of everything you know. So when I found out he was writing an undercover spy story, I was quite bemused and befuddled. On this potentially meandering path he is accompanied by Michael Walsh who created the art on Comeback. This creator owned book was focused on time travel and changing the past and was a challenging book to draw. Especially when the present time rapidly changed depending on what was happening at the related time in the past. He certainly has the navigator ability to manage the espionage theme, but will he be able to handle Kot? This comic is told from the perspective of Edward Zero as an elderly gentleman, sitting upon a cliff top. He recalls his youth of reconnaissance and necessary murder and is the central voice of the comic. We watch as he tries to subtly steal technology from a Palestinian super solider in Gaza. Only problem is that he is currently embroiled in a mega battle against an Israeli super soldier in the middle of the strip. There is also a civil war in progress and he has only minutes before being discovered by, well, everyone.
Ales creates an amazingly tense atmosphere and Zero is a quick-witted, unforgiving, ingenious spy. Despite this, he comes across as vulnerable as he neatly avoids flying debris and the super soldiers fighting. There are a time references on a few of the pages, to give a realistic pacing to the book but also to reflect the tautness of the challenge. The thought boxes are minimalist when the action is portrayed and detailed on the larger scenic panels. The language used in wartime is coarse and succinct, as you would expect. Zero spends a lot of the book in silence, and even the monologue boxes become sparse as we allow Walsh to show the perplexities of his face, through witnessing a bloody battle, deceiving soldiers and helping the innocent.
The artwork is situated in relatively similar environments with bland ubiquitous buildings, let alone the uniformed soldiers. Zero has to blend into the background, which is why the story focuses on his thought processes explaining the movements he makes. There are paged with small sequential panels that enable us to follow his tracks and move along with him. It is a superb way of making a run along the rooftops seem fast and erratic, whilst impressing panic on the reader. Interspersed with these pages are the battle sequences between two bloodied bruisers. The weapons flung and punches thrown hit with such ferocity that teeth fly and bones break. The contradiction of blood on sand is a vibrant and violent image and is emphasised during the book. There is a terrific panel where the silhouette of our antagonists is the only thing visible in a pile of smoke and rubble.
Jordie Bellaire is brilliant again on this book, as she uses varying colour patterns for the changing scenes of the comic. The old man has a blue hue to represent peace and catharsis on the sea, red on the inside of the tank to present danger and anxiety, and the grey of the unemotive central command characters. Her depiction of blood in the arid environments of the Palestine battleground, are vivid and violent, especially when Zero kills in cold blood where the panel goes completely red. The effects of journeying and brutality are excellently depicted and in keeping with the theme of the book.
Everyone loves a good spy story and we even have a dedicated Avengers book to it: Secret Avengers. Unfortunately it is difficult to put across the espionage element to the story and the suspense that is key to it. The concept of an undercover division to any organisation is an enticing concept, a black ops section with no rules. I guess this is why James Bond remains so popular and Ill never forget the revelation of Section 31 in Deep Space Nine. This book offers something relatively unique in that we have a self-contained story full of action and suspense with our central character playing along the sidelines. Zero has a skill set rarely perceived in comics before and all too often we have seen the heavy hitters go at each other. Rarely do we see the invisibles scheming behind them who are actually in control. As he steadily strolls out of the strip, he leaves the comic as invisible as he began. We have no idea who he is or whom he works for. All we know is that he is very good at getting his job done. The intriguing part of this character is that through all the violence and destruction, we see glimpses of empathy. He shows genuine concerns for the innocent civilians on the verge of the fight and the family caught in the crossfire. For a guy to be so cold and precise about murdering those in his way, he is surprisingly thoughtful. This is entirely in keeping with the narration of the old man sitting on the white cliffs of Dover, with a gun to his head. This book is his confession and catharsis at the end of his days, poignant, emotional and revelatory.
“I am nothing”