Year Zero issue #1 is published by AWA Studios under its Upshot imprint. The writer is Benjamin Percy, with art by Ramon Rosanas, coloring by Lee Loughridge, and lettering by Sal Cipriano.
Year Zero issue #1 starts off one year ago at a polar research station with a character named Sara Lemons who is, “hunting for clues” through “coring specimens” in the ice. Soon after this, her teams pulls out a man frozen in one of these coring samples. The story then moves to the present day following the stories of a few different people. In Mexico City, you will see a young boy named Daniel Martinez during a Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. In Tokyo, there is Saga Watanabe, a Yakuza hitman. In Kabul, Fatemah Shah is trying to convince some American soldiers to help her get some women to safety; and in Burnsville, Minnesota a man named B.J. Hool is taking inventory in his bunker.
Don’t expect too much in Year Zero issue #1 as far as action, because the creators are setting up the world. Things might seem somewhat mundane, even though at one point you’re watching a hitman getting ready to do his job, or a woman arguing with some soldiers in Kabul. But after each character is introduced in their individual locations around the world, a threat begins to unfold that the characters and the readers can’t see. An explosion will be shown in a panel or a lifeless hand in a sandbox is shown in another, but the actual threat is yet to be revealed. Even though the cover gives it away, in the story we do not see the threat before we reach the final few pages, but it becomes obvious that it is zombies.
I actually liked the mystery and slow build-up that Benjamin Percy is doing in this issue and that had to do a lot with the focus on the individual characters. You get inside the head of each character as they are going about their business, just before things get strange and chaotic. Percy gives each character a unique voice but it’s his opening sequence of Daniel Martinez that makes you see how cruel people can be. Daniel, starving and craving some of the Dia de los muertos treats sees another boy eating churros. The boy pretends to offer Daniel a piece only to selfishly consume it himself in front of him. As if that is not enough, the boy then offers Daniel coins, but he intentionally drops them in a gutter. It’s a heart-wrenching scene, especially since you find out that Daniel’s mother had passed away and he’s living on the streets. Percy does some of this build-up for all of the other characters and it works really well if you’re taking the time to read what the characters are thinking along with what is being shown to you through the art.
Ramon Rosanas’ art is different from what you might normally expect from some horror comic books. His linework is clean, and it does not have that pulpy look that you might find in other horror comics. He adds detail where it is necessary, like in the Dia de Los Muertos scene that has a crowd of people wearing costumes and faces painted like Calaveras (skulls) with traditional designs you would see if you attended the actual event. He also does this in the opening of the Tokyo scene with the buildings in the first panel, and in the second panel where Saga is stepping off an elevator. I couldn’t help but notice the design of the inside of the building, especially around the elevator and the hallway that is shown just to the right. He took the time to draw some great architecture and you should take the time to pay attention to it.
The pacing of the story works well because both the writer and artist seem to work well together. This is noticeable especially in B.J.’s sequence on pages 15 to 16 where you have five narrow panels crowded together, and it gives the sense that the pace is picking up. The panels switch back and forth between showing B.J. taking inventory in his bunker and the pandemonium taking place outside. It is a great execution of showing calm and chaos through those panels.
The characters are not only given unique personalities through the writing and the art, but their individual sequences also look different from one to the next through the coloring of the backgrounds and their narration boxes. Lee Loughridge colors Daniel’s scene in a variety of purple tones to give a nighttime appearance. Watanabe’s scenes contain a light blue and green, that sometimes look like they blend, while Fatemah’s scenes start with an orange tone to signify the dryness and heat in Kabul. And B.J.’s scene has an overall yellow tone, which you would expect from a scene in a bunker where the only light source is from the lightbulbs inside of it. Similarly, each character’s narration box is a different color. Daniel’s is blue, Watanabe’s is green, Fatemah’s is purple and B.J.’s appears to be an orange that fades to white.
Initially, I was going to give Year Zero issue #1 a rating of 3.5, but after I re-read it and paid closer attention to the writing of each character and the artwork, I decided to it is actually a 4 as far as a first issue goes. Do yourself a favor if you pick up Year Zero issue #1, take the time to appreciate nuance throughout the issue, and the world-building taking place along with the effort by the creative team to make each character distinct from each other. Yes, nothing seems to happen as far as action, but that’s expected of a first issue in what’s looking to be an interesting horror story with a diverse cast of characters.
Year Zero issue #1 will be available wherever comics are sold on April 1, 2020.
'Year Zero,' Issue #1
Do yourself a favor if you pick up Year Zero issue #1, take the time to appreciate nuance throughout the issue, and the world-building taking place along with the effort by the creative team to make each character distinct from each other.