After giving you, dear readers — and myself! — a bit of a breather from all things “All-Time,” we’re back for one more round, this time putting the not-quite-first installment of “Season Two” of Josh and Samuel Bayer’s ongoing post-modern take on super-heroics under our metaphorical microscope, that being All -Time Comics : Zerosis Deathscape #0.
Direct “Bronze Age” call-backs are still here to be found, but you’ve gotta do a lot more digging for them as the brothers Bayer, along with new collaborator Josh Simmons and returning “usual suspects” Ken Landgraf and cover artist Das Patoras, have widened the scope of the project considerably, with the art and story this time most clearly hearkening back to the EC “hosted” horror comics of the 1950s, while the “zero issue” hustle is something straight outta the 1990s “speculator bubble” playbook.
The question, of course, is — are all of these changes for the best?
The project’s new publishing home, Floating World Comics, seems to think so, and while the complete tonal and stylistic 180 took me more than a moment to adjust to as a reader, truth be told I’m all for shattering expectations just as a matter of course. The scripting by the pair of Joshes is uneven, but keeps readers off-guard in just the right way, as narrator Time Vampire Scientist relates a story from the misty dawn of history that dovetails into what I presume to be a modern-day yarn (although the aesthetics and dialogue have a distinct Great Depression vibe to them) about a young lad who’s very nearly the victim of a shocking and harrowing crime, until he’s saved at the last moment when the scumbags who’ve set upon him are thwarted by a new (to us readers, at any rate) hero who calls himself The Red Maniac — and who’s decidedly un-heroic even by ATC standards given that he’s middle-aged, out of shape, and barely able to hold his own in a fight.
How all this fits in with the reality-shattering dawn of something called the “Zeroverse” remains anyone’s guess, at this point, but I’m game to find out not just based on evidence offered in this “zero” issue, but because I’m damn excited about what’s coming next.
Or should that be who’s coming next? No offense intended to the art of misters Simmons and Landgraf — which is actually solid “retro” stuff that’s rich in detail and imaginatively laid out and presented — but the first issue proper sees the arrival of Trevor Von Eeden, one of the most groundbreaking and radical artists in DC’s 1980s stable, and someone who’s been absent from the comics scene for far too long. I’m absolutely fascinated to see how his style has changed and evolved over the decades, and to see how his always-remarkable visual storytelling skills play out in a contemporary comic (albeit one with a self-consciously nostalgic ethos).
I also have a tremendous amount of confidence in Simmons, who’s certainly one of the most distinctive voices in latter-day horror comics. The sample size we’re offered here is a small one — in fact, there are nearly as many pages of backmatter in this comic as there are of story and art — but it’s enough to hook you, even if it’s not enough to give a clear idea of why. I still read enough single-issue “floppies” to accept this as par for the course in the opening salvos of any and almost every given series, so what the hell — I can go with it here, too, and know from experience that Bayer and Simmons are skilled and smart enough to pull disparate narrative threads together in fascinating and unexpected ways.
All of which is to say — All-Time Comics : Zerosis Deathscape #0 fulfills the tasks laid out in its unwritten (and decidedly narrow) remit nicely, and does so with enough scattershot imagination to convince you that we’re probably in quite good hands here. Whether that faith is wisely placed or not is something that’ll be determined over the course of the next six issues.
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