'Section Zero' #1 Review: A Bland Throwback to the Early 2000s

Section Zero #1 absolutely feels like it comes from a time when comics felt a bit... simpler. Created by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett, the series stars a group of adventurers secretly working for the United Nations that investigate strange phenomena like Bigfoot, bug creatures, or phantom cats, the sort of creatures covered by Unexplained Mysteries or Art Bell's Coast to Coast.

The reason why it feels like a throwback to that earlier era is pretty simple, actually. Section Zero was first published by Gorilla Comics back in 2000, but went on an indefinite hiatus after just three issues. Gorilla Comics folded not too long after, and Section Zero lingered in the ether until 2012, when Kesel and Grummett revived it as a webcomic. In 2017, the pair successfully used Kickstarter to gather funds to finish a six-issue miniseries and publish it in a collected version, and now Image is re-printing Section Zero as individual issues. Technically, that makes Section Zero #1 a reprint, although the book feels only a bit dated despite the nearly 20-year period between printings.

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The first issue is mostly a standard introduction of its core cast, featuring characters like 24 Hour Bug, the cheerful alien Tesla, and the ex-lovers Sam Wildman and Tina Challenger. Although none of the characters are necessarily one-note, they all feel a bit bland and unimpressive. Outside of 24 Hour Bug, who has an admittedly unique power, the characters don't really stand out against the cacophony of current or past adventure comics. What might have felt exciting or new 20 years ago just feels like more of the same now, and it's hard to point out one thing that this comic really excels at that other comics lack.

It's not necessarily that Section Zero is a bad comic. It moves at a pretty even pace, the art has a bit of a timeless quality to it, and the dialogue is a bit wordy, but doesn't have any real cringe-worthy moments to it. The comic is technically sound, and plenty of comics creators could look at this first issue as an example of how to balance introducing a full cast of characters without sacrificing other elements of the series.

At the time of Section Zero's first release, Kesel and Grummett were coming off of a pretty well-received run of Superboy and had built up some goodwill and excitement with their fans. But while Kesel and Grummett definitely still have fans, the window for Section Zero coasting by on creator name recognition has mostly passed. And while the premise is mildly interesting, it doesn't really live up to its billing as "Jack Kirby meets the X-Files." It's more akin to one of the more forgettable Challengers of the Unknown runs meets one of the post Mulder/Scully episodes of The X-Files, only a little more reined in and a bit plain. I don't think this comic will attract many new fans to Section Zero, but existing fans of the series can look forward to a prequel in 2020.

Published by Image Comics

On April 3, 2019

Written by Karl Kesel

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Art by Tom Grummett

Letters by Richard Starkings