What happens when a paralyzed ex-Marine comes in contact with an alien super-suit?
The answer arrives in today's Soldier Zero #1, written by Paul Cornell and drawn by Javier Pina. Created by Stan Lee himself, this series isn't all about high-flying space combat, but the very human struggles of a man coming to terms with his disability and his stance on war.
To give just a taste of the BOOM! Studios book before its release, we caught up with Cornell to talk about the character of Stewart Trautmann, what his observations have been coming up with the series, and to tease about just what the Soldier Zero suit might be capable of doing...
Newsarama: Paul, just to start off with -- first issues are tough, especially trying to strike the balance between set-up and getting to the overall premise. Without giving too much away as far as content, what do you think readers should expect as far as what they'll find in this first issue?
Paul Cornell: We're hoping to intrigue you with a bit of our hero's everyday world, and a bit of our other hero's space adventures, and how the two come together.
Nrama: Tell us a little bit about Stewart Trautmann, just as a character. He's got roots as both a soldier, a student and an educator -- how does that inform who he is?
Cornell: He's a former Marine who's become a teaching assistant at a university, choosing to follow his hobby of astronomy into a job situation. He was wounded in war, and now he's a pacifist. Being forced to bond with an alien warrior is thus very difficult for him.
Nrama: You told us in our earlier interview how you researched Stewart's disability. For you, what do you feel is the most "real" observation you've taken while getting into this character's head?
Cornell: There are a couple of things that I've already seen advance reviewers not believing, because they seem too harsh. There are indeed stores with 'no wheelchair' signs. I've spoken to one wheelchair user who gets abused in the street a couple of times a week. We tend to think things are better for these people than they are, and we hate hearing about them not being.
Nrama: Obviously, we couldn't let this interview go without a look at the suit. Just as far as power level and abilities, what are we talking about here?
Cornell: Great strength, combat skills, flight, and a variety of specific alien weapons. It's more than a suit, it's a being, one that's used to forming itself around a cooperative host. Stewart isn't that sort of person, which is where the drama comes from.
Nrama: Trautmann can't exist in a vacuum -- he has to have supporting characters and enemies to fight. Can you tell us a little about who he'll face, and what his interactions with them might be like?
Cornell: Actually, Soldier Zero *can* exist in a... oh, right. Our first antagonist is an alien sent to find the armour after it crashed to Earth, who knows things about the armour's past that Stewart might not want to hear. Then we're setting up a classic Stan villain for the second arc, who's involved with our hero's origin story. Also, we get to know a few of the people from Stewart's neighbourhood, particularly his brother, James, who's got a lot of issues with Stewart that the book will gradually reveal.
Nrama: I should ask, what qualities do you feel are inherent in a "Stan Lee character"? How do you feel Soldier Zero falls into those ranks? And perhaps even more important, what do you feel your voice is in all this? What do you bring to the mix?
Cornell: I think a Stan Lee character has some form of innate dramatic conflict, so he's fighting even when it's just him in the panel. My job is to take Stan's timeless skills and make them work in the modern era. Though it's true that Stan's vastly involved, and loads of the dialogue and choices in the finished issue are down to him.
Nrama: Finally, for those who still aren't certain about Soldier Zero, what would you tell them to get them on board? Are there any moments coming up past Issue #1 that you're excited to see hit print?
Cornell: There are. I think it's an exciting ride, with some relatable characters and a hero who's literally battling with himself, as Stewart and the alien have to work together to make Soldier Zero work.Are you picking up Soldier Zero today?