This month marks the arrival of the 5th annual 30 Characters Challenge, the excellent event run by ComixTribe publisher Tyler James, where participants have to create a new comic character for every day of the whole month of November. I participated in the first year, successfully completing the challenge with 30 badly-drawn characters of my own, but haven’t done it again since. I won’t be participating this year either, but thought it might be fun to spend each day writing up a little showcase to celebrate a new comic character who showed up in comic pages for the first time this year. Comics are one of the most highly inventive mediums around, and this has been a particularly strong year for pumping out exciting new stories packed with compelling new characters. Let’s take a look at some of my favourites.
13. EDWARD ZERO
Image Comics’ Zero is a book that seems designed to put character at the forefront. As originally conceived by Ales Kot, each issue is set to be a standalone done-in-one tale, with the only throughline connecting them being that each chapter features a mission from the long, storied career of British superspy Edward Zero. But what we may not have expected is just how diverse and nuanced this characterisation would prove to be, even after only two issues.
We’ve already seen Zero across a very wide range of his life. In his first appearance at the very start of Zero #1, he’s an old man, presumably near death. And then we flash back to him as a young man in his prime. Michael Walsh brings this tale to gritty life, and though the focus is very much on a relentlessly-paced plot rather than extensive character analysis, the massive fight scene that dominates the book is intself a showcase of character. As while the two genetically-modified powerhouses beat the holy hell out of each other and lay the scenery around them to waste in the process, Zero is like a ghost flitting through the background, observing quietly, waiting to pick his spot, slip his disguise and move in for the kill. He’s ruthless, not above killing those who stand in his way, but in this seemingly dead-eyed soul we get just a flicker of long-buried humanity.
It’s all very intriguing, but it’s in issue #2 that things really blow up magnificently. See, issue #1 sets some seeds that we expect to get picked up later as the character moves forward into other missions. But then we don’t move forward into other missions, not yet at least. Instead, issue #2 – with jaw-dropping artwork from Tradd Moore – takes us backwards to Edward’s formative years as a child, being trained to become the government-sanctioned killer we saw in the first chapter. And it’s heartbreaking. Already he’s emotionally stunted due to his harsh training and mental conditioning, but he’s still a child, and in spite of his skill and his deadliness there is some sense of innocence there. And we get to watch the moment where its snatched away from him once and for all.
Zero #3 is just round the corner, and I have no idea what kind of plot turn awaits us in this instalment. We could have a story from any point in between the beginning of issue #1 and the end of issue #2, really, so wide is the canvas and scope for fresh stories Edward Zero’s life allows for. But if subsequent chapters can maintain the standard of what has come already, Zero will quickly cement his status as one of the most compellingly developed comic protagonists of recent years.