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January 28, 2011

Retro-Read #43 Doctor Zero

Filed under: Retro-Read — Doorman @ 10:31 am

With years spent reading single issues here and there, juggling storylines of dozens of titles, I decided it was time to find a better way to read comics. So, it was off to the back issue bins armed with the longest want list you’ve ever seen! Putting together series after series and reading them in their complete goodness, I was reborn as the Retro-Reader!

Publisher: Epic Comics
Number of Issues: 8
First Issue: April 1988 ($1.25)
Last Issue: June 1989 ($1.50)
Writer: D.G. Chichester with Margaret Clark
Artist: Cenys Cowan with inks by Bill Sienkiewicz (#1-4), Brett Ewins (#5), Dan Spiegle (#6-8), Gary Kwapisz (#8)

*Warning! Plot Spoilers Below*

Doctor Zero was the first series published in Epic Comics’ Shadow Line Saga. The Shadow Line was a shared universe that focused on an Earth very similar to ours – inhabited by billions of normal humans. Similar to ours except for the existence of a second race of powered humans that evolved over the centuries. This race is much smaller in numbers than the humans, so they’ve chosen to hide in the shadows – referring to them as Shadows seems appropriate, doesn’t it? Over time, some of the Shadows have slipped up and had encounters with humans. These events have led to sightings of mythical creatures like yetis, vampires, and djinns.

In the late 1980s, one of these Shadow Dwellers stepped forward into the public spotlight as the world’s first super hero. This do-gooder named himself Doctor Zero and began saving humanity from itself. He stepped in to help defeat threats produced by Muslim terrorists, nuclear weapons, deadly diseases, nuclear meltdowns and more. With such great accomplishments, how could the public do anything but embrace this new-found savior of humanity?

Well, if they knew the truth, it’d certainly affect their feelings toward Doctor Zero. It turns out that he’s been behind the scenes – manipulating these events to happen and then stepping in to squash them or direct them elsewhere. It’s becoming clear to us, the readers, that he’s following his own motives and they’re not necessarily in humanity’s best interests. But, what are his motives? Well, that’s the fun of the book – trying to figure out what grand scheme he’s putting together.

The Bad: Nearly 25 years later, the threat of terrorism and nuclear annihilation haven’t changed for the better. As for the comic, it was unfortunately canceled at issue 8 (even though plans were underway up to #13) so we miss out on any kind of conclusion showcasing what the series was actually building to.

The Good: Moody inks by Bill Sienkiewicz and an interesting story concept. Great covers by Sienkiewicz, Jon J. Muth, Kevin Nowlan, Gray Morrow, Kent Williams and more!

The Verdict: The concept’s great! Everyday people think he’s a true hero but, what they don’t know is that he’s orchestrating the events he saves them from. That leaves the question: what is he building towards? And, that’s where the rub is – the series was canceled before it was revealed (now, perhaps more is seen in the final Shadowline Saga title, Critical Mass – but, I’ve yet to read it). The first four issues are great: the story is clearly building towards something and Bill Sienkiewicz’s inks add a moody, seedy feeling to the book. The final four issues shift more of the focus on to the less-interesting government team hunting Zero and the art becomes more typical 1980s super-hero fare. So, as much as I enjoyed the initial build-up, the lack of any solid conclusion says “skip it”.

On Ebay: Doctor Zero | Shadowline Saga | D.G. Chichester | Bill Sienkiewicz
On AtomicAvenue: Doctor Zero

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