On the wheels and heels of Soldier Zero
Recently Boom! Comics released the first volume of Stan Lee’s Soldier Zero, which collects the first four issues of the new monthly superhero comics line. The book itself is constructed of obvious quality, but unfortunately, the quality mostly stops there.
The story is essentially a Green Lantern Ripoff: A talented, respected guy with a well-trained skill set is down on his luck.
An alien crashes to the planet, and hands over a super power to him just in time to fight off an alien menace, which the first alien, frankly, brought upon the earth when he landed.
The protagonist is a Marine, rather than a test pilot, and he’s now in a wheel-chair, rather than just on the outs with his girl and job, but he doesn’t have much charm.
I think we’re supposed to see him as noble and sacrificing, but he really just comes off as a whiner most of the time, and is not a particularly sympathetic character.
It feels almost bad to say that about his, since he’s paralyzed, but in a way, that’s what makes him so unsympathetic.
The use of the wheelchair in the story is not just an element of the protagonist’s character, it is, as a theme wielded like a club, and bashed in the reader’s face at every possible turn. It’s such an obvious sympathy device that it ends up producing the opposite effect.
The alien is already dead when the Marine finds him, but that’s okay because the power takes the form of a Vanom-esque sentient suit, which must be contended with for control of the body, and constantly argued with in an inane fashion. Of course, with the suit on, our Marine can walk around like a normal guy, and that creates some tension, or it would if the writers here know how to create tension.
All of the drama and tension in the work flows from overly devicey elements, which have nothing to do with the actual Superhero story underneath. By the end of this first volume, four months of issues, the protagonist has had only minimal contact with any bad guys, and is still more worried about his wheelchair than anything else.
The art, on the other hand, is great. The lines are purposeful, and the characters are distinctive, and full of illustrated personality. It’s just unfortunate that our talented artist had no better script to draw from.
I’m not sure how heavy Stan Lee’s hand was in the production of this volume, but it seems like the only thing here reminiscent of Lee is the name on the cover. Stan Lee’s name evokes a lot of feelings about timeless, classic, superhero comics quality, but Stan Lee’s Soldier Zero does not have much of that.