Review: Soldier Zero #3

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This week sees the release of the third issue of Soldier Zero, the first of the titles to come out of the partnership between Stan Lee and BOOM! Studios. Around this time, one would expect the forming of plots and the happening of interesting events. Is all that going on in this book? Find out after the jump!

Soldier Zero #3
‘Grand Poobah': Stan Lee
Writer: Paul Cornell
Art: Sergio Ariño
Colours: Archie Van Buren
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Bryce Carlson
Covers: Trevor Hairsine (Covers A & C), Kalman Andrasofszky (Cover B)
Published by BOOM! Studios

Previously, in Soldier Zero: an alien parasite has fallen to Earth during a meteor shower and bonded with paraplegic war veteran Capt. Stewart Truman, granting him special powers. Whilst once again enjoying the ability to walk, Truman finds himself amidst a robbery and, becoming Soldier Zero, stops the crime. However, he finds himself drained of energy, and collapses only to be found by another, sinister, alien hybrid who has taken the form of a sheriff’s deputy.

A Mixed Bag

So, the ‘deputy’ finds Truman and takes him to the police station. He does not detect the parasite within Truman, however, due to it being drained of energy. Truman gets interrogated, but the police let him go. Collected by his brother (who is aware of Turman’s situation), Stewart’s parasite informs the pair that the deputy is an alien like itself, sent to hunt it. Meanwhile, Truman’s crush Lily is in the hospital after having been injured and saved by Soldier Zero, and is being interviewed about the experience live on the radio. The deputy hears this (as the parasite can pick up radio waves) and heads for the hospital – Stewart also realizes this and turns into Soldier Zero to go and fight. Our issue ends with the deputy/alien seemingly gaining the upper hand in their subsequent duel.

As I said in my introduction, this is a third issue. By this point, introductions have been made, the ‘set-up’ phase has ended and, in most modern comic book series, the plot of the first arc should be in full swing. This is definitely happening here: we have a clear plot and villain. Stewart and company have to escape from or deal with the deputy/alien – it’s all rather simple. Simple does not necessarily mean bad, of course, and this book has its share of interesting things going on. The dilemma presented to Stewart, in that the parasite allows him to walk again, but also causes a whole lot of trouble, is definitely compelling, and there are a few other little things that really draw in the reader; the visit to Lily by two CIA agents, for example, drops the tantalizing idea that the government might be investigating to alien, which brings with it a plethora of dramatic possibilities, or the page that is dedicated to explaining how the deputy/alien (which is a parasite possessing the dead body of a sheriff’s deputy) must minimize the signs of the decay of its host body, and that the body itself will eventually fall apart.

It is a shame, then, that at this point I find the plot to be quite boring and mostly by-the-numbers. I truly realized I felt this way when, as Soldier Zero and the deputy/alien met, the latter says, “Have you told him everything about you, traitor?!” This ‘twist’ was actually nothing of the sort – the idea that what is the ‘mysterious’ character has been lying about its past is so over-done that I really did have to sigh on seeing its inclusion. It was at that moment that I realized that I really wasn’t seeing anything new in this plot, that there was nothing to surprise me. I hope I’m proved wrong in this, and that the subsequent issues will take the series to new and exciting places, but at the moment I feel as if I can sere how this entire first arc is going to go, and that doesn’t particularly make me want to read on.

There were some problems, as well, with the dialogue. Namely, in the entire police station scene, it felt clunky and at times nonsensical – there were points when once piece of dialogue didn’t seem as if it were following another. Maybe this is all meant to mirror the fact that Stewart is under a lot of pressure in a police interrogation, and that he is not perhaps acting very naturally, but it required multiple readings to get much sense out of that scene. The two CIA agents, as well – whilst their inclusion is interesting as a concept, the execution isn’t brilliant. They have a sort of over-the-top manner about them, and seeing as they come into the book out of nowhere, this ends up being really off-putting.

A Pleasant Collection of Covers

The art, I have to say, is average. It served its purpose, and didn’t have any major problems, but it also didn’t particularly impress me and I didn’t enjoy it that much. It was simply present, without being overly good or bad. I will say, though, that I didn’t enjoy the facial expressions – they seemed unnatural a lot of the time, like one was looking at a rubber mask rather than an actual human face.

The covers, however, presented something a little more pleasing to the eye. Cover A shows Stewart in the middle of a painful transformation into Soldier Zero, which reflects the contents of the book (although I don’t know what the scenes of destruction in the background are about). I also found it to be rather well-drawn, and so it earns points from me. Cover B shows Stewart in his wheelchair with the spectre of Soldier Zero towering over him. I like this cover, it demonstrates clearly the book’s core concept and gives us a nice contrast between Stewart and Soldier Zero in terms of physical stature. Also, and I have no idea if this is intentional, but to me it looks as if Stewart is almost ready to get up out of his wheelchair and run, as if this is what he achieves by being transformed into Soldier Zero. Cover C is simply the Soldier Zero symbol against a black background – this is one of those limited edition covers, and it looks very distinctive. I want to talk, also, about the bottom half of the covers, which is currently black with a small design, with the title and some credits etc. on it. I am not sure how I feel about this – on the one hand, it provides the book with a distinctive look, but on the other hand it takes away space from the actual cover image. In the end, I think, it works with some covers and not with others – Cover A, for example, is fine, but I feel as if the image on Cover B would have been much more effective it it had covered most or all of the cover.

BOTTOM LINE: Just Above Average

Overall, this issue is mostly average, with one or two points that manage to pique my interest. If you read and liked issues one and two, and want to know what happens next, then by all means give this book a read, but I find it difficult to recommend this issue to people who have not encountered the series before. I can’t say much more than: there are probably better books out there this month, but this one is OK too, and it earns three stars out of five.

Rating: ★★★☆☆