Section Zero #1
Writer: Karl Kesel
Artist: Tom Grummett
Section Zero #1 is an interesting glimpse back at the comic book trends that dominated the medium 20 years ago. Mainly because it’s a reprint of the never finished series written by Karl Kesel and illustrated by Tom Grummett. Section Zero, originally published in 2000, ended abruptly with its third issue. Now the book returns through Image, with the promise of reaching its long-awaited conclusion. Those who caught Section Zero the first time around should note essentially nothing has changed. And I’m not sure if there’s a market for this kind of book anymore.
Section Zero follows a superhero-like team of miraculous individuals tasked by the United Nations to hunt aliens, cryptids, and similar creatures. The gruff sword-wielding Sam Wildman explains most of this to the teenager Thom Talesi. The latter unwillingly gains the ability to transform into a bug-like creature from a tattoo obtained from a mysterious shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown. As you can probably judge by that plot point, Section Zero leans heavily into some well-established and questionable tropes. The other team members include a powerful if aloof alien named Tesla and the absurdly named scientist Titania Challenger.
The first issue is one of the hardest things for a comic book series to get right. That’s partially since it’s such a crucial element for a book’s success, both as a narrative and a product. If you can’t sell the story to the reader in the first twenty pages, they’re probably not going any further than that. Section Zero establishes its cast and premise in a very clear way. The delivery is very stiff and expository. More generally, nothing about Section Zero feels natural or even particularly interesting. What you end up with is a functional but unengaging book. The reveal that Wildman and Challenger were formerly married is the only halfway promising plot point. They clearly aren’t on good terms despite being on the same team. But the story fails to explain this, outside of a throwaway line of dialogue.
Grummett is an experienced artist and one of my favorites. But the same is true of Kesel and I still find the writing to be subpar. Unfortunately, both the story and illustrations of Section Zero are equally flat and dated. Grummett’s character designs are firmly rooted in the early 2000s, which was an awkward transition for the superhero genre. This isn’t an issue in earlier Grummett books, most notably his work in Robin. Overall, Section Zero is a paint by numbers story that doesn’t engage the weirder aspects of its premise nearly as much as it should. I’m sure old school fans of Section Zero will be happy to see the book completed but I doubt this reprint will win over that many modern readers.
Section Zero #1
A reprint of a never finished comic originally published nearly two decades ago. The years have not been kind to it.