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Review – Section Zero #1 (Image Comics)

Section Zero #1
Overall
7/10
7/10
  • Writing - 6/10
    6/10
  • Art - 8/10
    8/10
  • Overall - 7/10
    7/10
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Summary

Writer: Karl Kesel
Art: Tom Grummett & Karl Kesel
Colors: Ben Dimagmaliw
Letters: Richard Starkings (COMICRAFT)
Cover B: Walter Simonson & Jeremy Colwell
Cover C: Jerry Ordway & Jeremy Colwell
Editor: Melanie Hackett
Communications: Marc Lombardi
Publisher: Image Comics
Maturity Rating: E
Release Date: April 3, 2019

Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett, the superstar creative team responsible for “The Death of Superman”, return to their fan-favorite creator-owned title Section Zero. It’s a reunion nearly twenty years in the making, about a super-secret sect of the United Nations dedicated to protecting the world from everything that it didn’t know existed. 

There is No Section Zero #1

Everything you hold true is a lie; aliens exist, monsters are real. It’s a poly-governmental conspiracy, hidden deep within a secret section of the United Nations charter. So who do you call about reports of a giant “bug-boy” terrorizing the villages of Siatok? Who helps keep the Loch Ness Monster at bay? Find out in Section Zero #1, a story about a rag-tag bunch of miscreants and supernatural rejects, co-created by the legendary team of Karl Kesel and Tom Grummet. They’re a super team set on defending the world from everything you didn’t know existed. 

Writing

Section Zero #1 (Image Comics) cover A by Tom Grummett and Karl Kesel
Section Zero #1 (Image Comics) cover A by Tom Grummett and Karl Kesel

Now, it’s important to note that Karl Kesel is a legend in the comic book industry. To try to quote his impressive resume would be doing him a disservice, so I’ll simply sum it up by saying that he’s the guy who co-created Kon-El, Superboy. I have nothing but respect for him. But with all due respect—and it truly pains me to say this—the script of Section Zero #1 reads like a very convoluted and confused origin story. 

It simply lacks any sense of continuity; the story needlessly and inexplicably pivots throughout the issue. Kesel is happy to pick up and drop the established plot at a moment’s notice, often with reckless abandon. As soon as readers get any semblance of direction, he shifts the action and attention onto something new that wasn’t there before. 

There are just too many “why?” moments percolating. Too much attempting to unfold all at once, with little to no emphasis placed on explaining the “how”, “what”, and “when”. Had this been a double-issue, and had Kesel been given the time and space required to properly introduce his characters and storyline, I’m confident my opinions on Section Zero #1 would differ. However, in this current state, I’m sadly left wanting more. 

Art

It’s a common gripe in comics, that old adage that cries out “they don’t make ’em like they used to.” To be honest, I’ve never given it much credence. However, after seeing the work of Tom Grummett in the panels of Section Zero #1, I’m beginning to understand it. Just to quickly recap, Tom Grummet is the other co-creator of Superboy. He worked alongside Marv Wolfman on “A Lonely Place of Dying”, the arc that introduced the world to Tim Drake as the new Robin. Oh, and he also drew the entire “Death of Superman” arc. 

He’s a titan, plain and simple. Most impressively, perhaps, is how time has done nothing to dampen the artistic prowess of Grummett. At more than sixty years old, he’s still reinventing and establishing himself as one of comics’ most renowned and influential creators of all time. My one small point of contention is that his art does give off an air of the subdued. Noticeably missing are the sprawling splash pages, the intricacies of paneling; really, anything at all that could be said to push the boundaries beyond a basic conceptual comic book layout. Grummet seems to want to opt for safety in lieu of complexity, which is a disappointing choice for longtime fans who know how much more he’s capable of. 

Further compounding the mundane nature of the artwork is the retrograde palette of Ben Dimagmaliw. It’s stale, noticeably dated, and restrictive. I understand wanting to maintain a certain overall aesthetic but, respectfully, something needs to be done to breathe modern life into this color scheme in order for Section Zero to reach its true artistic potential. 

Conclusion

I’ve always held firm to the belief that you should never read a book for what’s written on the outside; it’s the words between the covers that matter. But in a brand-name world where even comic books aren’t immune, this is often not the case. Sometimes creators get by more on their legacy and less on their merit. Maybe that’s what I’m falling victim to here? I can’t honestly say one way or the other. What I can confidently say is that Section Zero has a long way to go in a very short period of time and that as much as I respect the creative team at the helm, I don’t know if that’s enough to bring me back for next month. 


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Jordan Claes

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