Advance Review: Soldier Zero #1
- Published on Tuesday, 19 October 2010 12:10
- Written by Rokk
Boom was kind enough to provide us with an advance copy of Soldier Zero #1. This title kicks off a series of Stan Lee created titles. I am unsure exactly how much creative input Stan Lee had with the story itself in Soldier Zero #1. More than likely, Stan Lee created the character, their background, their motivation, their personality type and their power set and then turned it over to Paul Cornell to write the story by himself. Will Soldier Zero #1 earn The Revolution's stamp of approval? Let's find out!
Grand Poobah: Stan Lee
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Javier Pina
Colors: Alfred Rockefeller
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 5.5 Night Girls out of 10
Release Date: October 20, 2010
Soldier Zero #1 centers on an American soldier, Stewart Trautmann, who served over in Afghanistan and became paralyzed when a bomb took out his vehicle. He is now back home and working as an Astronomy lecturer at a local college. The hook of the story is that he ends up bonding with an alien suit of armor.
I had high hopes for Soldier Zero #1. Boom is a publisher that I openly admire. Stan Lee is an icon so anything with his name on the cover is going to attract my attention. Paul Cornell is not one of my favorite writers. I think Cornell’s writing talents work better with television than comics. Having said that, I have certainly enjoyed some of Cornell's writing in the past.
Unfortunately, Soldier Zero #1 did nothing but disappoint me. Perhaps I set my expectations unfairly high. The fact remains that this debut issue was incredibly underwhelming and did nothing to hook me into coming back for more.
Cornell tells a technically well put together story. The plotting and pacing is fine. Cornell certainly lays a sound foundation for this opening story arc and properly introduces all of the main characters and how they relate to each other.
In fact, Cornell’s journeyman’s approach to constructing Soldier Zero #1 is part of the problem. The story is too mechanical in its construction. Soldier Zero #1 reads a bit like a paint by numbers story. Cornell dutifully hits all the plot beats in such a perfunctory fashion that the result is that this issue has no heart at all. The story itself is rather dull and pedestrian.
Cornell clumsily handles the various themes in this issue. These themes concern the brewing conflict with brother, Trautmann’s view of the war and being a soldier and how Trautmann is dealing with the fact that he is paralyzed and the daily challenges he now faces. Each theme is delivered in a heavy handed fashion lacking any artfulness or subtlety. Cornell awkwardly puts forth each theme to the reader.
Cornell wastes too much time on Trautmann’s origin. The reader is told Trautmann’s origin not once, but twice in this issue. Too much time is spent on what is a rather unoriginal and basic origin. Nothing more than a few panels are needed to get across the point to the reader.
The biggest defect of Soldier Zero #1 is that Cornell absolutely saturates this entire issue with the fact that Trautmann is in a wheelchair. It gets to the point as if Cornell is taking a literary hammer and using the reader as an anvil as he pounds away at this one story point. Cornell practically hangs a neon sign around Trautmann’s wheelchair during this issue.
Every single scene deals with the fact that Trautmann is in a wheelchair and how it impacts his everyday life. Now, these are not PC scenes. Cornell does come up with some honest moments that nicely convey to the reader the obstacles that Trautmann faces. And one or two of these scenes for this issue would have been absolutely perfect. A good rule to writing is that less is more.
Unfortunately, Cornell bringing up these moments in every single scene simply overwhelms the reader to the point where the impact of these moments become lost on the reader. By the middle of the issue, I was chuckling to myself about these repeated obstacles and moments concerning Trautmann in a wheelchair. It was so heavy handed that it became somewhat humorous. This unintended humor was certainly not what Cornell was going for. At no point did Cornell want to evoke chuckles in the reader.
It felt that we got about six issues worth of real life problems that people in wheelchairs face all crammed into one issue. The one instance concerning a convenience store not having a handicap friendly entrance was just too contrived. ADA laws require business to be handicap accessible. No convenience store would be built or given a business license if it violated ADA laws and the local city code. This was an example of Cornell being too heavy handed to prove a rather obvious point.
The character work was average at best. All of the characters were flat and one-dimensional. Cornell offers up characters that were more basic comic book stereotypes than well rounded individuals. None of the supporting characters interested me in the least bit.
The main character, Trautmann, is as vanilla as they come. Trautmann makes Clark Kent seem like a wild and crazy guy. Trautmann possess that bland and generic PC personality type that is commonly found in super hero comic books.
The only bit of personality that Cornell manages to give Trautmann backfires. Cornell has Trautmann refer to him being soldier as being an “Arms bearer.” Cornell also has Trautmann comment on how he will be joining the anti-war protests.
Now, America has been at war in Iraq and/or Afghanistan for almost ten years. During that period we have run an all volunteer army. This is not like Vietnam where people were drafted and forced to go to Vietnam. Trautmann is not an old guy at all. Therefore, Trautmann clearly joined the military sometime in the past ten years when the war in Iraq and/or Afghanistan was going on.
It makes no sense that Trautmann would voluntarily join the military knowing he would be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan if he thought that the war was unjust or immoral. This simply makes Trautmann look like an idiot.
Perhaps, Trautmann had a life changing experience in Afghanistan that caused him to change his mind about the war. Unforunately, that is never mentioned in this issue. Instead, Trautmann's anti-war stance seems forced and PC. It is as if Cornell is shoehorning his personal political beliefs into a character where it does not fit.
Or, in the alternative, Cornell is simply awkwardly shoving this anti-war side of Trautmann’s character into the story in order to artificially create an eventual schism between Trautmann and his pro-war brother. Such a cliched storyline like that would hold little interest for me.
Cornell’s dialogue was stiff and generic. None of the characters posses a well developed external voice. The combination of pedestrian character work and colorless dialogue results in absolutely no chemistry at all between any of the characters.
Now, shallow character work and bland dialogue combined with a standard issue comic book story can always be spiced up if the issue has a fair amount of action. Quality action scenes can cover up for plenty of thin character work and average dialogue. Unfortunately, Soldier Zero #1 has little to no action at all. I don’t mind an issue that does not have any action, but the writer had better deliver a riveting story with deep characters and well crafted dialogue in order to hold my attention.
Soldier Zero #1 is quite predictable. The reader can guess with ease exactly what is going to happen in the next scene. Now, predictability in a story is perfectly acceptable when the artistry of the writing is impressive and the characters and dialogue are intriguing. The reader will not mind the fact that we know where we are headed since the ride is so enjoyable.
However, in the case of Soldier Zero #1 the story is lacking any quality and fascinating dialogue or character work. Therefore, the dull ride to a known destination becomes unappealing to the reader.
Javier Pina’s artwork is serviceable. There is nothing particularly great or bad about the art in Soldier Zero #1. Pina’s artwork gets the job done. However, stronger artwork might have been able to make up for the deficiencies in Cornell’s story. I did find the character design for Soldier Zero’s armor to be rather bland and uninteresting.
Soldier Zero #1 does nothing to distinguish itself from the rest of the super hero titles flooding the market. I would only recommend Soldier Zero #1 to fans of Paul Cornell or to readers who like a more old school and classic styled super hero.
For everyone else, I would recommend passing on this issue. I am going to take a wait and see approach with this title before recommending it to anyone. If Soldier Zero improves over the course of the next five issues then I will recommend picking this opening story arc up in trade format. But, at this point, I cannot recommend spending your hard earned money on this title when there are so many other superior titles on the market.