Soldier Zero #1
Created by Stan Lee
Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Javier Pina and Alfred Rockefeller
Lettering by Ed Dukeshire
Published by BOOM! Studios
Review by David Pepose
When you think of Stan Lee, you ultimately think of the super-compressed, high-flying origin stories -- from spider's bite to "with great power comes great responsibility" in 15 pages, and the like. Today's audience sensibilities -- for better or for worse -- seems to prefer the more decompressed look, with Brian Michael Bendis's Ultimate Spider-Man being a prime example, with it being six issues before Peter Parker donned the signature red-and-blue tights.
So I think it's a gamble -- and a testament -- to Paul Cornell's skills that he focuses less on the power of Soldier Zero, and more on the character within him. With the cachet of Stan Lee's name -- not to mention the popularity of superhero comics in general -- attached to the project, it proves to be a canny move on Cornell's part, as even with a somewhat speedier timetable, he draws up a compelling character piece draped with just a touch of superhero spectacle.
Stewart Trautmann isn't a real person, but you get the sense from Paul Cornell's writing that he echoes many of the same frustrations and anxieties that the handicapped face everyday. A key element of Cornell's portrayal that hasn't come out in any of the previous interviews I had read was the fact that his protagonist is a veteran, a war hero whose close encounter with an IED left him paralyzed from the waist-down. It's a small difference, but it adds in so much as far as characterization: "Being home now... it's like a battlefield," Trautmann says. "It's not me that's broken. It's... all this!" He's conflicted, about love, about war, about his future. Forget the space battles -- it's Trautmann himself who is the real catch here.
As far as the art goes, this is probably one of the stronger debuts I've seen out of BOOM! Studios in quite some time. Javier Pina succeeds the most on the everyday conversations, with Trautmann and Lily's emotions ringing with more truth and detail than Soldier Zero's admittedly sparse lines. In Pina's hands, Lily in particular comes off as such a sympathetic love interest, as she wrestles with political correctness and just wanting to understand Trautmann's issues. Out of everyone, however, it's colorist Alfred Rockefeller that surprises me the most -- you'd think that his bold colorwork would almost overpower Pina's art, but outside of some weirdly-colored stubble he gives Trautmann, he manages to just hit that balance of energetic and overwhelming to really pump this book up.
You'd think that for a superhero book, there'd be a lot more action and sci-fi heavy-lifting, but that's not what Paul Cornell is about for this first issue of Soldier Zero. There are plenty of capes on an already crowded shelf, and the only way that BOOM! Studios is going to dig deeper into that superhero market is with some stellar characterization mixed with approachable but solid artwork -- two qualities that Soldier Zero definitely possesses. Forget the powers for a second, and look at the hero behind the mask -- and you'll find that Soldier Zero is really, truly, finally is not like any other character out there.Are you excited for Soldier Zero?