Review - Soldier Zero #1

San Diego Comic-Con was certainly rife with hype this year (like every other year) but there was a certain electricity in the air that was different. Prior to the show, BOOM! Studios began a campaign called simply "Stan's Back." As comic book fans, our first thought was, who else, Stan Lee. Three books were announced as being shephered by Stan Lee: Soldier Zero, The Traveler and Starborn and the first of the three, Soldier Zero #1 hits stores October 20. We've gotten our hands on the first issue and have taken the bullet for you fine readers to read and review it.

I should start by saying that the book is written by Paul Cornell and illustrated by Javier Pina, but you can see Stan Lee's fingerprints all over it. The opening sequence features a mysterious being fighting (or fleeing) something in space. How do we know it's alien? Well the fact that the pursuer refers to it in what can only be described as nonsensical symbols pretty much solidifies that fact. While the space action is going on the main character, Stewart Trautmann, is on Earth and home from the war in Afghanistan. There's a lot of back and forth as far as the story goes at forth, but by the end the simultaneous storylines all seem to converge at one plot point. The story even seemed a little volatile at times in terms of pacing, but then again we're talking about an origin story here so there's a lot going on. If you've read Stan Lee before you have a pretty good idea of how Stewart becomes Soldier Zero: the suit falls from space during a meteor shower and merges with Stewart, predictably giving him the power to walk and move with incredible precision and strength.

Stewart is a wheelchair-bound war veteran with an affinity for the stars. He was paralyzed from the waist down in the war by an IED and has taken to reminding people that he's not helpless, despite the wheelchair. His predicament was actually a pretty prevelant theme in the book as he repeatedly made mention of his ability to still be functioning, despite his injury. I can imagine that his response is similar to many other veterans injured in a similar fashion; you go from being outfitted and part of the greatest military machine in the world to a severely limited civilian back home. At times it was a little annoying that he kept reminding people about his capabilities, but if it brings more attention to the reality of the situation I'm all for it. Despite his condition, Stewart still has a knack for astronomy. We're never really told much about why Stewart, an astronomist, was serving in Afghanistan, but I think this issue was really more of an origin issue for Soldier Zero himself.

I like where Soldier Zero is potentially going to go. It's not completely clear how the suit works or whether or not Stewart will be able to maintain a dual identity. I'm sure we'll get that in future issues as we're already introduced to two characters that will no doubt be close to Stewart in Lily, a possible love interest and James, Stewart's brother and unofficial ward. The issue also boasts some politics as Cornell addresses veteran care, handicap accessibility and perceptions about disabilities (wheelchairs in particular) in general. The tone is tastefully done and, sadly, probably not too far from the truth. If you've read Superman comics then you know what you're getting in terms of art fom Pina. The main difference here though is that Pina isn't working with a bulky character like Superman. Instead, Stewart looks normal for a war veteran. Lily isn't outrageously proportioned as a love interest. There's a certain Saturday morning cartoon feel to the book and this is very much a superhero comic more than anything else. It fits the story well, despite the somewhat uneven pacing and flashbacks.

Soldier Zero is shaping up to be a really good series. There are a lot of questions after the first issue, with the biggest being about the alien robot suit that merged with Stewart. I'm sure we'll find out where it came from, who was chasing it and if it chose Stewart out of convenience or some greater purpose. The "unlikely hero becomes superhero" story is a little formulaic, but just about everything else has been done at this point. Cornell and Pina (and Stan Lee) have taken the formulaic and ran with it very well so far. Color me intrigued. Check out some interiors below.