Writer: Benjamin Percy
Illustrator: Ramon Rosanas
Publisher: AWA UPSHOT
Year Zero, AWA/Upshot, Cover art by Ramon Rosanas
WHAT IS IT?
Year Zero is a masterfully executed, pre-apocalyptic-slow-burn-unfolding-into-an-apocalyptic-zombie-world comic.
The story of five unlucky human beings whose imperfect existences begin to spiral into zombie terror. This first issue, from the first volume of two, skillfully lays tracks for the oncoming disaster.
Think Fear The Walking Dead with This Is Us connective tissues.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
We witness the divergent lives of five characters as humanity descends into zombie anarchy. The Prepper, fully stocked, locked, loaded and alone, hoping to find companionship in the chaos. The Japanese assassin, duty-bound and vengeful for the loss of his love at the hands his former syndicate boss. The street orphan, street smart, terrified, discarded but resourceful, the world still ignoring him. The war interpreter, stoic, strong, brave but damaged; already responsible for saving lives men already destroyed. And finally, the Arctic researcher, a talented environmental scientist, trying to save humanity from itself and the devastation she unintentionally wrought.
Their stories concurrently weaved together and distinctively disconnected. In each you feel their fears, desires, resilience and strength. What will bring them together? What will drive them apart? And who can survive in this brave, new world?
The art WORKS! This was my first introduction to the work of Ramon Rosanas and I thought it brilliant. The linework is tight and crisp with expressive facial acting and physicality of movement. Additionally, Rosanas’ panel work is distinct and malleable, allowing the story to dictate the grid count, nine, four, whatever is needed. And then there’s his shot selection and the “camera” angling. It lends a cinematic feel to the page. Did I say the art execution is superb?
I’m also new to Percy and found his writing narratively excellent, making it hard not to gush like a COVID-locked-down teenager with a new PS5. It’s a challenge breathing new life into a well-worn trope but Percy’s up to the task. He and his collaborators do well not to overly explain in a barrage of word balloons which, along with the pacing, allows us to experience the lives of our characters, not be told their experiences.
Percy’s dialogue feels natural. For example, when the Afghan Interpreter speaks, her speech is written as thoughtful, reflective, honest and resolute. The American soldier, as soldiers in a warzone would; blunt, short, impatient. Again, we’re not told how they think, but shown through narrative excellence.
Lee Loughridge’s colors, shading and shadows are excellent complements to Rosanas’s linework. The Arctic, where our story begins, is arrestingly bright and blue. So idyllically beautiful that at the onset, you’re convinced this is “not the zombie story you’re looking for” (excellent sneaky SW riff). When transported to Kabul, it’s hued swelteringly yellow and hot. You want to hide in the shade for cover.
Sal Cipriano does letters and they’re delivered with purpose and paired wonderfully with the art. They don’t distract but simply feel part of the landscape.
I appreciate Year Zero’s character and location diversity. From different continents, countries and personal views, you witness a wider (as if that’s a good thing) Apocalyptic experience from multiple angles. Kabul, Japan, Minnesota, Mexico City and small stints in the Artic. Horror and virus all around the world.
I also liked the end story, historical exposition. This and subsequent issues end with a “this has happened before,” one-page epilogue. How man’s continued hubris meets the same ends. We’ve seen this virus before, ignored this virus and attempted to use the virus for our own gains to continued failure. Rinse, wash, repeat, apocalyptic brain-eating, CUT! Time for the sequel.
Upshot/AWA’s publishing product in general, Year Zero being one of the first, is extremely professional and well done. Beautiful bright page colors on “it’s the small things,” paper quality. Brilliant covers meant to lure you in. Experienced craftmanship. Not every “new” publisher gets the importance of snazzy packaging.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The character/actors appear at first to be stereotypical. The assassin is Japanese Yakuza. The street orphan, Mexican. The prepper, a midwestern, Anglo male. The Interpreter, an Afghani woman. While the scientist is a woman, she’s Anglo. The story is amazingly well written, but it doesn’t challenge our Western perceived relationship with the world. This is nitpicky. Percy could be using the familiarity with character expectations to make the story easily digestible to a larger audience, but today’s world is more complex.
The pacing could be too slow for some. You get small glimpses of the world-building from each character’s vantage point before you’re introduced to another. If you prefer a straight narrative delivery to follow from A to B, this ain’t that Jam.
Again, being nitpicky but there’s implied violence in this issue; lots of off-panel carnage. Not tons of limbs torn off or heads bludgeoned, and no zombie nudity. If you’re looking for real depravity, it’s not here (yet). At least, not with the zombies.
Year Zero, AWA/Upshot, Interior art by Ramon Rosanas
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
If you enjoy zombie apocalypse comics like The Walking Dead, movies like 28 Days Later, or shows like Fear the Walking Dead, you’ll enjoy Year Zero too. If you like your violence-and-blood less about the violence-and-blood and more about the character depth and story tension, this is for you too.
While not linear, Year Zero will connect you to its characters, their unfolding lives and unraveling world around them with well-placed dashes of violence and blood. You should also read for the last page epilogue which provides historical context, very well done in one page. Again, visually appealing and well-executed even for those who don’t like the zombie stuff.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Year Zero #2/Volume #1 by Benjamin Percy and Ramon Rosanas
Dceased by Tom Taylor & Trevor Hairsine and James Harren
Hotell by John Lees & Dalibor Talajic
If you like the art:
The Astonishing Ant-Man by Nick Spencer & Ramon Rosanas
Sera and the Royal Stars by Jon Tsuei & Audrey Mock
Second Coming by Mark Russell & Richard Pace
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Benjamin Percy (@Benjamin_Percy) – Writer
Multitalented: Ben writes for TV, podcasts, screenplays, comics, novels and magazines. His most recent book, The Ninth Metal is available for pre-order.
Ben also provides mentorship, teaching suspense writing on the Skill Share platform
Ben has a great beard and deep voice
Ramon Rosanas (@RamonRosanas) – Illustrator
Outlander: Roman is based in Barcelona and is equally dexterous, producing works for editorial and advertising agencies around the world
He’s the current Marvel Star Wars comic artist. Serious points here!
He’s produced work for magazines like Elle Spain and Playboy
Lee Loughridge (@leeloughridge) – Colorist
Lee is a co-creator of the hit comic (and briefly, TV show) Deadly Class
Lee’s a Porsche cars aficionado
Lee’s a multiple award nominee, including being nominated for his work on the comic Fables; War and Pieces
Sal Cipriano (@salcipriano) – Letterer
Based in Brooklyn, Sal is a serious Action Figure reviewer with almost 7k subscribers to his Ultrazilla Youtube page!
He’s also a serious coffee addict
Also lettered another 2020 top comic gem, Hotell by AWA/Upshot
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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