Soldier Zero: Volume 1 – Paul Cornell

Having a disability can be tough. Usually the problem isn’t your disability as you find ways around that, the problem is typically the rest of society and how it treats you. One of the drawbacks of having a disability is you don’t get to appear in fiction (unless you are villain with an eye-patch or a hook for a hand) and comics in particular.

He we have a recently disabled soldier who is coming to terms with the changes in his life. His family, friends, women, people on the street all treat him differently now because he is in a wheelchair. We get to see and feel his pain and awkwardness at dealing with a culture that is too embarrassed to think about or discuss people with differing abilities. We also get to think about own overreaction and discomfort in these situations.

This isn’t a preachy book and it doesn’t spend the whole time making you feel guilty. With a superb tone it highlights things that you either never thought about or you brushed under your mental carpet. Our hero meets another wheelchair user so we get to see differing attitudes to having a disability.

You could spend a whole book on just this subject alone and with Cornell’s masterful style it would be an entertaining and insightful read. But two aliens drop from the sky and one of them possesses our hero’s body granting him and ability to walk, and fly too. This invasion is more of a cohabitation as the two personalities vie for control of the physical form. What follows is one of the finest buddy-movie capers seen in a very long time as both ego’s jostle for position.

The art and the colouring are superb. There are excellent nocturnal colour casts and star filled skies. Expert use of digital painting gives the alien technology a very otherworldly feel and great use is made of geometric shapes. There is a fantastic flashback whose sepia tint and rounded corner panels are an exemplary choice. The deliberately obscured faces in that sequence help us understand our protagonist’s loneliness and isolation.

Having two people thinking and talking from the same face, particularly when one can change his voice, seems like a nightmare. Through expert colour coded lettering this is handled with ease. Chances for letterers to shine are few and far between as it is often the most overlooked profession but what we see here is real innovation and creativity.

This is possibly the most perfect comic book. It has a compelling story, lots of action, relatable characters, intriguing mysteries, a strong and well delivered social message, beautiful art and is expertly told. This is a lot for volume two to live up to. Double Thumbs Up!

90/275.

Tomorrow: Soldier Zero: Volume 2 – Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning

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