In 2038, an old, scarred man sits on the cliffs of Dover drinking from a bottle. A boy has come to kill him, but before the happens, the man has a story to tell. Thus begins Zero, an Image Comics series by Ales Kot. Zero tells the life story of Edward Zero, a former super spy for the shadowy "Agency", as a series of vignettes (each issue being a self contained story illustrated by a different artist) stretching from 1994 to the future. At some point in the past Edward had a moral crisis and quit the Agency, but all is not quite as it seems.
What looks at a glance like a simple spy story quickly becomes more complex as more of Edward's complex life is revealed. Seemingly unimportant details from early issues later tie into the larger story in surprising and shocking ways. As such, be aware that this is a series with a lot of spoilers. While the series has no regular illustrator, the colors are always done by Jordie Bellaire which lends a strong sense of consistency.
This work provides examples of:
- A Day in the Limelight: Issue #9 focuses almost completely on Zizek.
- Affably Evil: Ginsberg Nova is a violent dangerous terrorist who is oddly polite and even affectionate to Edward. The effect is creepy.
- Bad Future: Which turns out to be an alternate future. Apparently the fungus doesn't care about the boundaries of a single universe.
- Big Bad Friend: Robert is Ginsberg Nova.
- Continuity Nod: Issue #11 features a young assassin on her first assignment, attempting to kill Edward much like how Edward was required to do so in #2.
- Eye Scream: Carlyle shoves glass in Zero's eye. He just has a hole there now (or in 2018 a glass eye).
- Fungus Humongous: In the future, gigantic mushrooms grow out of the ocean.
- Issue 12 involves a child from the agency who has control over fungus. He's effectively immortal as he's merged with them.
- Gainax Ending: Zero is comforted by his father while in a fungus-induced haze, while also being confronted (and possibly killed) by his son in the future. He is then allowed to "choose" a multiverse to live in by a cosmic being. Also, William Burroughs is featured.
- Genre Shift: The series goes from spy fiction to a metafictional meditation on violence and war.
- Hope Spot: Carlyle has one when he meets the woman in Rio. It doesn't work out the way he hoped but it helps him get his life on track.
- How Much More Can He Take?: Practically a series hallmark considering how often Zero ends up in a really brutal fight. One notable instance involves Zero fighting Carlyle on a rooftop, before giving chase and involving some Car Fu, going back to a fist fight after their cars crash, Zero getting stabbed in the eye, and ending with Zero slamming a car door repeatedly at his Carlyle's head.
- Killed Off for Real: Roman Zizek
- Lighter and Softer: Compared to the rest of the series, #2 starts off this way. Tradd Moore's art helps with this. It does not last.
- One-Word Title: Last name of Protagonist Title.
- Portal Cut: Poor, poor Mina Thorpe.
- Pretty Little Headshots: Averted on Zero's first mission.
- Resignations Not Accepted: Edward is sent in issue #4 to dispatch an enforcer who left the Agency. The Agent in question, Carlyle, is not surprised.
- Sadistic Choice: Save your lover or her unborn baby. Roman chooses the baby at the request of Marina.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Quite cynical.
- Spy School: Mina and Edward apparently went to one run by the Agency. Student deaths were not unusual.
- Training from Hell: The said Spy School involved this. Basic training consisted of escaping from a small box, which was placed at the bottom of a frozen lake. While wearing a straitjacket.
- Wham Issue:
- Issue #5 reveals that Edward killed off most of the human population via mushroom plague and is sitting on the cliffs watching the behemoth like mushrooms in the ocean. Wham!
- Issue #7 ends with Edward killing Roman Zizek, effectively leaving the Agency.
- Wham Line: "I never met my father. I never met my mother. And much of the human population died because I made a choice."
- Would Not Hurt A Child: A running theme in the comic. Edward's first target wouldn't hurt him because he was a kid. The agency has no problem killing kids. Edward's first unsanctioned kill at the end of issue #1 is brought about in anger at the death of a child, and he later refuses to kill a young assassin sent to kill him in issue #11.