It’s a great time to be a sci-fi fan. It seems that every other week, fans are blessed with a new series pushing the genre in interesting directions. This week saw the launch of Empty Zone by writer/artist Jason Shawn Alexander. It takes the best parts of cyberpunk and dystopian science fiction and combines them with elements of supernatural horror to make an enticing first issue.
The story opens with Corinne White, a bounty hunter with a mechanical arm, waking from a horrific nightmare. Something in her past has robbed her of sleep, keeping her awake most nights. She’s turned to drugs and alcohol to cope, but the frayed edges of her mental state are becoming more obvious as time goes on. She’s haunted by phantoms and hallucinations, making it hard for the reader know what’s real and what’s in her head. Despite all of this apparent damage, she remains one of the most effective hunters in the field.
The writing in the book is solid, building the world on the foundations set by works such as Blade Runner and Neuromancer. It’s a gritty, morally questionable setting where a cyborg and a robot can battle it out in a bar and nobody bats an eye. Corinne is an interesting protagonist, though there’s nothing about her in the first issue that hasn’t been seen before. She’s an unreliable narrator and that coupled with her mysterious past keeps her from feeling stereotypical.
The art is where the book absolutely shines, making this issue a ‘must buy’ all on its own. Alexander delivers panel after stylish panel, combining inks and watercolors to capture a surreal, dream-like vision of the future. The art feels gritty, evoking a dark tone even when it’s not portraying the phantoms of Corinne’s broken mind. Colorist Luis NCT keeps everything dark and enhances the grimy feeling of a suffering futuristic city.
From the moment I saw the cover of Empty Zone #1 advertised, I knew I would be picking up this book. The cover is compelling and regardless of what was inside, I had to own that beautiful piece of art. Thankfully, the first issue is more than just a pretty cover. Add this one to your pull lists as soon as possible.