Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Writer(s): Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artwork: Rafael De Latorre, Marcelo Maiolo
Release Date: 17th February, 2016
Drusilla Dragowski – “Dru”, to you – wants to be a super hero. She believes she has discovered that the end of the world is right around the corner, and that she is one of the ‘chosen few’ who can help save humanity. Unfortunately, Dru is a fairly unremarkable kid who has been held back in school twice and who finds herself picked on and ostracised by the majority of her peers. Over the first two issues of this series, we’ve seen Dru go to somewhat drastic lengths in an attempt activate her inner hero, including hiring a homeless man to rob her parents at gunpoint following a trip to the theatre (to see “Star Trek: The Musical”, naturally), and being bitten by radioactive… ants (her best friend Tana’s arachnophobia got the better of her and she had to improvise). Unsurprisingly, neither of these has yielded any results, and so her quest is forced to continue.
Three issues in and it’s still proving difficult to really pigeon hole Super Zero into any specific category. One on hand, there’s definitely going to be some young adult appeal here, with the relatable geeky high school underdog, the blossoming romance and the hint of our heroine playing a part in a larger story. At the same time though, there are definitely some darker aspects to the story; the colourful language and the hinted-at abuse of Tana by her father, not to mention Dru’s worrying, almost autistic detachment from the consequences of her actions. It’s an intriguing mix if it’s intentional, although it does occasionally make it difficult to figure out just how we’re meant to be reacting to certain events.
This issue sees Dru embark on some combat training courtesy of Wax, her homeless would-be-mugger-for-hire, as well as turning to the dark arts in an attempt to conjure her way into the super hero ranks. Again, some of the comic and pop culture references are a little heavy-handed, but there’s a keen sense of humour on display here – something Palmiotti and Conner are well known for. The humour ranges from the slapstick (Dru’s clumsy attempts to use Wax’s assortment of weapons ) to the genius (the use of pepperoni slices from a pizza to fill the “animal sacrifice” requirement of their dark incantation), and while the ambiguity about just where this book is going remains present throughout, there’s no denying that it has been a fun journey so far. Definitely unambiguous are the clean lines and expressive characters of Rafael De Latorre, who keeps things lively and chirpy throughout with his measured style. There’s a slightly cartoony approach to his work that fits the young adult tone, with Marcelo Maiolo adding some soft colours to the mix, displaying a firm grasp of light and shadow.
Overall, while the tone remains a little inconsistent, the quirky charm of the lead character keeps the pages turning and the lingering sense of ambiguity gives the book an intriguing hook as the story progresses. Could Dru’s crazy theory actually turn out to be accurate? Are her recurring dreams of heroism some sort of premonition or suppressed memory, or merely the vivid delusions of a bored young girl? A couple of months in, nobody could ever accuse Aftershock Comics of playing things safe, and in a sea of bold, dynamic, even ground-breaking titles, Super Zero may end up being the most unconventional of them all, depending on just where Connor and Palmiotti are ultimately going with this one. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of fun figuring things out, and you can definitely count me in with this series until we find out for sure.