Review: Empty Zone #3

ez003The concept of the cyborg is a relatively new one in the medium of comics.  While the mixture of man and machine can be traced back to the infancy of comics with the likes of Robotman (introduced in 1942), the true melding of man and machine did not become popular until the 1970s, with the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman.  With an increasing interest in the concept, thanks also to the Terminator film series in the 1980s, comic creators started to incorporate aspects of cybernetics into superheroes, although there has arguably never been a real success in the medium.  Both Deathlok from Marvel and Cyborg from DC Comics are the most successful cyborgs, but they also have struggled to remain popular at times, even if they are relatively prominent at the moment in the mainstream medium.  Empty Zone has shown a different take on cyborgs, one closer to the counter culture idea of cyberpunk than to that of superheroes.  In this series the main character Corrine is a courier, only one with a dark past and she is not sure of what she is presently carrying, a bundle of electronic information that some are willing to kill for.

In this issue Corrine must travel to some cybernetic experts to replace her arm, an arm which as she described has to be rudimentary in design because it serves as a reminder of who she is.  In so doing she descends into sleep, but it a different sense as she is shown to do so almost electronically, looking at her visions through a monitor.  She discovers that the visions are not her own, but rather the visions of the man that rescued her from poverty to make her into what she is.  The second half of the issue is one without much dialogue, and instead focuses on two somewhat random events, first a street fight and then a sex scene.

There are some inherent problems with such a stylistic concept, and they are evident in this third issue.  While the series and this issue are well designed to display the depth to which society has descended, it does so without an adequate character to guide them, and thus the reader gets lost.  The character herself is one which is enticing, but the writers have given so little about her to identify with, that it is equally hard to like her.  When there seems to be a breakout in her background, the creative team throws the reader some more confusion with the mostly out-of-place street fight and the even more out-of-place sex scene.  It is a brave concept, but the execution is not there as basic elements of storytelling are missing.

Story and Art: Jason Shawn Alexander
Story: 6.3 Art: 6.3  Overall: 6.3  Recommendation: Pass

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review.

3 comments

  • Why does it feel as though every review I read that criticizes experimentation in comics seem to boil down to “they’re not doing it right because it’s not straightforward enough”? You seem to strongly imply that there’s a “right” and “wrong” way to tell a story, which is ridiculous. Art is art, and there are endless possibilities. In particular, Empty Zone is cyberpunk in a very noir-ish setting, so a level of mystery and intrigue is really to be expected. Why has the writer given so little to identify the main character with? Because that’s part of the technique of building the mystery, and honestly this issue began to reveal a little more about her past, so I really don’t see what there is to complain about. As far as the considerable lack of dialogue towards the end… this also serves to build the setting “feel” of the story greatly, if you ask me. It makes it even more cryptic in the fact that we can see what’s happening, but that there’s no character conversation to explain things. In short, lighten up a little. This is a rather bold and different narrative, and not every story is just going to baby you and spoonfeed you with an explanation of every minute detail every step of the way.

    • I am all for experimentation, and this series deserves some praise for it, the only problem here is that of the narrative. It is rich in concept but then throws in a sex scene and a street fight without being part of the story. It is gratuitous and borderline sensationalist.

  • I didn’t think it was gratuitous at all. Corinne had already known that the bartender wanted to hook up with her from their previous encounter. The bartender gave vibes. Anyway, the fight left Corinne euphoric and powerful. (As did those drugs she took.) She went to the bar–her usual haunt–to relieve stress. There’s always an inextricable connection between sex and violence… the murdering of the bartender is just a plot device. I thought the issue really moved it along nicely. Good reveals about her own, dark past .