CATEGORY ZERO, ISSUES #1-3
Writer: Adem Kiamil
Art: Ton Lima
Publisher: Scout Comics
WHAT IS IT?
So far, it seems like a global viral panic type story, with potentially powered individuals at the center of it.
Think The Gifted or The Handmaid's Tale meets Contagion meets reality, and that's why it's so scary.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Everyone is infected by the Strix virus, but it’s harmless in 99% of people. However, for that 1%, it can have dangerous effects. Some people can control them, almost as if they're superpowers.
But this isn't a comic about superheroes (not yet, anyway). It's a book about panic and politics.
And as that panic rises and this minority group is leveraged against by the powers that be, logic gets left behind.
Will our characters be able to survive a rapidly changing landscape and help return things to the way they were before? Or will panic and politics win out over the American people?
Adem Kiamil takes Category Zero in a direction you don't think it will go. That's part of its magic: you think it's an Outbreak-style story, then it shifts. You think it's going to turn into a comic about a few people with superpowers, but then it becomes a story about political intrigue. This ever-changing evolution keeps you guessing and gives the story its epic scope.
There's a lot to love about Ton Lima's art. He approaches the page from a cinematic perspective, balancing between traditional panel work and elements that pop off the page, like the professor below. Another great example is using the rearview mirror of a vehicle as its own panel – a shot that would make film and TV directors salivate.
Lima also does well with panel timing. The pace feels right and good and natural, and he uses one of my favorite tricks, which is separating a single panel into multiples for pacing's sake.
Single issue releases that rely on crowdfunding or the often chaotic lives of indie comic creators can sometimes be irregular, and have some time between each. Kiamil catches the reader up each issue through context, which works for readers just starting with later issues or lapsed readers, picking up the issues after a break. Even if you're reading the issues concurrently, it's still helpful to give conversations context with so many things going on in the comic.
Kiamil also gives each issue a solid cliffhanger, which will make you want to speed-read your way through the available issues.
Derek Dow uses a mostly realistic color palette, which helps the comic feel more authentic, like it could actually happen, and makes the rare time when the colors feel unnatural more effective.
As noted below, there are some issues with the standard lettering (possibly because there might not have been an official letterer on the title?), but the sound effects use a good variety of pre-made fonts, and they're not afraid to go big (or small!). It fills the quieter moments up a little more, which is welcome as the story gains momentum.
There feels like so much story to tell, even after finishing the third issue. And I couldn't tell you what's going to happen or how things will shake out. I feel like that's a sign of a good story.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
TRIGGER WARNING: Concentration camp themes. Also, nudity (albeit tasteful) and sexual content, cursing and death make this maybe not the best comic for kids.
There’s a good deal of setup at the beginning of this comic. They try to start strong with an exciting scene, but the stakes don't quite feel high enough to be effective. All that being said, there is a lot of history that readers need to catch up on. The interesting thing is how explicit they are with the history, yet how they only hint at other, more recent events. It draws you in, makes you want to find out more about what happened while giving you just enough context to get a good idea.
Small things, like punctuation issues, using almost imperceptible italicization for emphasis instead of bold letters, word balloon tails not always pointing at characters' mouths, the first speaker in a panel being on the right instead of the left, or most characters having the same body type, can take some readers out of the moment. Several of these issues are with the lettering. Without a credits page in the reviewers' copy and no letterer listed on the cover, it makes me wonder if there was no official letterer on the project and if a lot of these issues could've been avoided with one (and with an editor to help proofread, as well).
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
While it's hard to pin to any specific genre, Category Zero's strength is shown in its reflection of the fear mentality of a nation looking for someone to blame after a tragedy, even if the people in question have no control over what makes them different.
Category Zero can be enjoyed at face value; it draws you in with interesting events and mysteries and action. But it also works on a deeper level, rewarding readers willing to think critically about the comic they're reading.
Another strong title from Scout Comics!
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
The Robot War by Joe Friend & Matt Haley
Under the Sun by Austine Osas & Abiodun Awodele, & Yusuf. T. Shittuh
The Offspring by David Whalen
If you like the art:
Artemísia by Francélia Pereira & Ton Lima
Kino by Alex Paknadel & Diego Galindo
Queen by Jamie Me & Bernard Gita
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Adem Kiamil – Writer
Outlander: Lives in London
New Face: I think this might be his first comic (at least, one of his firsts)!
Ton Lima – Illustrator
Dream Team: Currently working with Adem Kiamil & Derek Dow on another comic, this time in a cyberpunk setting.
Outlander: Is from Brazil
Derek Dow – Colorist
Outlander: Hails from the UK
Dream Team, part 2: Currently working with Adem Kiamil & Ton Lima on another comic, this time in a cyberpunk setting.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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