I thought Doug Zawisza’s review of “Soldier Zero” #1 was right on the money. Reading the second issue, you can see what the first issue was lacking: the other half of the origin story. With the first issue focusing exclusively on Stewart Trautmann and his life after being paralyzed in Afghanistan, the debut issue was lacking the strong hook of the alien suit that attaches itself to Trautmann at the end. The premise of the book doesn’t simply require that we care about Trautmann, we also needs to know what’s actually happening and, this issue, fills in those gaps, providing the other half of what, ideally, would have been the first issue.
There’s a familiarity in the concept of “Solider Zero” if you’ve read the first issue only: alien suit/weapon bonds itself to human, granting him powers of some kind. Not an uncommon premise, but this issue works to bring out what makes this story different. Part of that is how the suit changes the paralyzed Trautmann’s life, while a large part is the nature of the suit and what it wants. For one thing, the suit is a sentient being, a parasite/symbiote that requires a host to live and, with its host dead, attached itself to Trautmann. It can grant him extra abilities, but it’s also weakened from what it’s endured, making it an easier target for its enemies. Part of a war, the suit and its previous host were the only survivors of a battle that may have come to Earth.
Trautmann’s brother adds tension with his panicked insistence that the suit leave his brother and his presuming to speak for his brother. However, the long conversation about the suit and what should be done is a large exposition dump. The entire story stops for explanations and debates and drags as a result. Cornell does a good job of adding the unique perspective of Trautmann as he questions if this is what he wants, but it never feels like it matters at the same time. It’s a false debate and one that’s not approached like it’s anything else. It’s a token argument that delays the inevitable.
Javier Pina’s art is expressive, but needs work when depicting Trautmann in the alien suit. Dave Johnson’s design is seemingly simple, but can easily look silly if not done properly, particularly the strange mask. From some angles, the costume doesn’t work and Pina hasn’t figured out how to cheat that yet. His body language and characters are otherwise effective. They don’t just stand around during discussions, they move and emote well. The beginning is good at showing how off-balance and weak the combination of the suit and Trautmann is.
The colors, though, vary quite a bit. The simple, bold coloring on the suit and the ‘evil’ suit jump off the page. The coloring of people’s faces, though, attempts for subtle texturing that buries the pencils and inks, distracting instead of complementing.
“Soldier Zero” #2 is an improvement on the first issue, getting into the meat of the story, but it’s also very exposition heavy. Cornell’s character work is good and grounds the story in some semblance of reality. Sadly, after two issues, it’s still too early to tell if this book will be worth reading on a regular basis. Two issues in and the story is barely going.