Generation Zero #3
Written by Fred Van Lente
Art by Derek Charm, Francis Portela and Andrew Dalhouse
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by Valiant Entertainment
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10
Generation Zero takes a hard right turn into surrealism with its strongest issue yet. The Zeroes have infiltrated Rook High School, and in order to get information about the mysterious death of Keisha’s boyfriend, they have kidnapped Rook High’s queen bee, Adele Poole. But, this being the Zeroes, this isn’t a normal interrogation and Keisha, the Telic, Commander Cronus and Animalia quickly find themselves trapped in Adele’s mind with no exit strategy.
This jaunt into the mind is a major artistic coup for the title as regular penciler Francis Portela stands aside and allows Jughead artist Derek Charm to handle the majority of the issue, resulting in a complete and unexpected overhaul of the title’s visuals. But this switch isn’t just some cheap stunt for Generation Zero. This drastic visual switch not only give this third issue a stylish hook, but also allows Fred Van Lente to explore the emotional core of his characters, especially Keisha, resulting in a game-changing installment for Valiant Entertainment’s newest title.
Right from the start Derek Charm shows you that this isn’t going to be just another issue of Generation Zero. Opening with a full-on Archie riff, complete with story titles and Adele’s name done up like the classic Archie logo, Charm replaces the realistic and slick pencils of Francis Portela with his cartoonish style that has made Jughead so memorable. The pages inside Adele’s mind are gorgeous and radiate with a sinister optimism as Adele’s rocky life and recent past is filtered through the sunny lens of a Riverdale-like version of Rook.
Though the rounded pencils and bright colors of Charm’s pages might suggest a softness for this third issue, he quickly assuages that fear as the issue barrels toward its conclusion. While slow-going at first, he gets to delve into a tightly packed action sequence at the issue’s finale that pits the Zeroes against the mysterious Cornermen as they attempt to escape Adele’s mind. But while Charm’s inclusion in this issue may sound like an fun lark, it quickly reveals itself to be a strong asset towards realizing Fred Van Lente’s emotionally charged script.
As the Zeroes attempt to navigate Adele’s mind, they soon learn that Adele’s perfect existence is anything but and her animosity toward Keisha might have been a bit more obvious than she has realized. Though Keisha is given some big moments during this third issue, her heart-warming speech to Animalia in the finale being a major standout, Van Lente uses the trip into Adele’s mind to really develop each of the characters featured this time around. More than that, he continues to tastefully tap into the very real anxieties young people experience on a day to day basis, such as a desire for acceptance and the fear of growing up, all set against the backdrop of tense science fiction drama. Though the inclusion of Derek Charm was a bit jarring at first, Fred Van Lente gets the most out of his guest artist and uses the new style as the strong foundation for his ideas and strong character development.
Packed with action, humor, and more than a little pathos, Generation Zero #3 stands as the best issue of the series since its debut and a gleefully weird use of another title’s visuals and tone. Though not quite as punk rock looking as the previous installments, #3 still impresses and shows a whole other side to artist Derek Charm, one that isn’t afraid to render burger joints and psiotic blasts with equal attention and brightness. But while Charm delivers an unexpected new set of visuals to the title, Fred Van Lente continues his streak of insane science fiction tempered with genuine emotion and compelling lead characters with understandable motivations all their own. Thanks to vintage visuals and a big heart to go along with them, Generation Zero #3 continues to get better and better.