Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Zero 18, originally released July 1st, 2015.
Drew: I don’t love fetishizing endings. I resent the idea that the final moments of a work of art are somehow more important than all of the other moments that came before. I do, however, appreciate that it’s not until the end of a work that we can properly understand what it is. It’s not that the last piece of the narrative puzzle is necessarily more important than the rest, it just happens to be the last one added, which makes it the one that completes the image. True to that analogy, most endings are increasingly predictable as they approach — by that late in a narrative, we have a sense of likely conclusions. But then there are those narratives that aren’t so easily tied down. Zero started as a relatively straightforward spy series, but became increasingly postmodern, turning itself into a pointed commentary on the artificial division between “life” and “art.” Even with that trajectory in mind, issue 18 offers a conclusion of such bizarre beauty that nobody could have ever predicted. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Zero 17, originally released June 3rd, 2015.
Make art, not war.
Patrick: Perhaps it’s because the above statement is so simple that tracking down a specific origin proves so difficult. A little bit of on-line research will keep pointing back to street artist Shepard Fairey — who did design the now-iconic image that often accompanies the phrase. Even if we assume Fairey’s authority, the artist’s populist message and street-art aesthetic makes it hard to credit him with any particular concept or turn of phrase. “Make art, not war” is also clearly a reference to the anti-Vietnam War slogan “make love, not war,” which itself has an origin that is up for debate. Be it art or be it love, there is a persistent need for something that man can consider the opposite of war, so it’s fitting that these slogans should resist a single point of origin. Like the fungus in Zero, they come from everywhere — in all times and all realities — to mitigate the suffering caused by war. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Zero 16, originally released May 6th, 2015.
“You” believed this was “your voice” and “you” were a story “you” were telling to a boy who was “your son” but “who” was telling the story of “you” telling the story to “your son?”
Ales Kot, Zero 16
Drew: In our discussion of Zero 14, I noted that, while the framing device of Zero telling his story to the boy about to shoot him gave us a narrator for our story proper, I had to wonder who was “telling” the story of that framing device. Of course, that was just before writer Ales Kot pulled the camera back even further to reveal another framing device in issue 15. That issue explained that the “higher narrator” is actually William S. Burroughs, introduced as a character in the comic, but still left open the question of who was presenting us with that framing device. That kind of nested reality could go on forever, but this issue actually finds Kot doing something much more clever — dissolving the borders between these framing devices. It’s a fascinating trick that brings us closer to the fiction that is Zero…or is it that it brings Zero closer to reality? Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Zero 15, originally released January 28th, 2015.
Patrick:Last time we talked about Zero, Drew was interested in the discrete loops of experience necessarily unshared by the artist and the audience. This came on the heels of two issues which seemed to actively push the audience away — largely wordless volumes soaked cover-to-cover in intense, non-romantic violence with cryptic references to half-remembered song lyrics — so it was easy, almost necessary, to rely solely on the reader’s perspective of the events in question. With issue 15, Ales Kot and artist Ian Bertram re-introduce the concept of the meta-narrative first explored in issue 10, and along with it, a fictionalized version of Williams S. Burroughs, as the author of this story. The move simultaneously buys into the culture of exploring authorial intention and discounting it all together, as the experiences, reality, dreams and non-reality of creator and creation merge, both on the page and off. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Zero 14, originally released January 28th, 2015.
Two fundamental discrete cognate loops are shown, which are isolated from each other by the artwork. There is no form of interaction between the two which could generate mutual understanding as would be the case in a successful conversation. In the absence of such a procedure both the audience and the artists become locked in their own perceptual biases.
Stephen Willats, Art and Social Function
Drew: Where does meaning happen? I was brought up on the postmodern ideals outlined in the epigraph, but it seems that a great deal of modern society still clings to romantic notions of artistic intention. We celebrate and scorn artists based on their intentions, forgetting that the value of their art may not have anything to do with the artist. Indeed, we’re so obsessed with intention that we conflate it with meaning, minimizing the audience’s role — a role I might argue is the whole point of art in the first place. It’s because of this climate that I enjoy art that obscures its artist’s intentions. It’s easy to assume the moral is the “point” of one of Aesop’s fables, but it’s decidedly harder to draw such a clean line in something like Zero 14, where ambiguity and sheer density of ideas makes any meaning we can parse decidedly our own. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Zero 13, originally released December 17th, 2014.
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
Drew: It’s easy for the neophile to be frustrated with art. As much as our society claims to value innovation, our art tends to rely heavily on the comforts of the known. That’s not to say the majority of art is devoid of surprise, just that the forms that those surprises take are so prescribed as to be relatively predictable. Whether it’s the hero returning home or the melody returning to the home key, our most tried-and-true structures leave only the smaller details to truly distinguish themselves. Zero 13 contains a masterful example of this kind of small surprise, but this issue’s biggest surprise might lie in what it reveals about the larger form of the series. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Zero 12, originally released November 19th, 2014.
Taylor: As a comic, Zero has bucked many of the conventions that have come to define our understanding of a comic book series. Whereas most comics enjoy a prolonged run of writer and artist, Zero has one writer with a rotating cast of artists each issue. Instead of following a straightforward plot progression, Zero tells its story with no truly describable pattern, instead exploring mood and ideas before plot. The hero, usually given the most amount of ink in words and artwork, here shares his pages with other characters in an act that shifts the focus of the story away from him and onto the world he calls home. All that being said, it’s easy to see why Zero might be overlooked by some. But for those seeking a unique reading experience, there’s nothing quite like it. Continue reading →
Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing Zero 11, originally released October 22nd, 2014.
Taylor: While it’s not glamorous, there’s something to be said for the home life. True, this statement probably doesn’t carry much weight from a homebody like myself, but — like a Hobbit — I just love the comforts of my own digs. While some people seem mentally disposed to this lifestyle, others have come to appreciate it because they haven’t always been able to enjoy it. Edward Zero is certainly the latter of these two. After being a spy his entire life, he seems to long for nothing but the quiet life. A house, a partner, and maybe a few chickens sprinkled on the side are all he needs. However, in the case of Zero he didn’t choose the spy life, it chose him. And when that chooses you, it can be difficult — if not impossible — to escape.
Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Zero 10, originally released August 13th, 2014.
The unexamined life is not worth living.
Ignorance is bliss
Thomas Gray, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College
Drew: If I ever needed an example of cognitive dissonance, I would simply point to the above statements, acknowledging that the majority of people know that both are true. It makes no sense, but we at once want to know things that will disturb us while wanting to unknow things that enrich our lives. It’s perhaps most true when it comes to analyzing the arts. Some folks prefer to examine their art, while others believe they are happier without that closer look, as though art were some mysterious and secretly unsavory sausage whose origins could only yield misery. It should be obvious that I’m in the first group, which is why a thoughtful, intricate work like Ales Kot and Michael Gaydos’ Zero 10 is so utterly rewarding. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Taylor are discussing Zero 9, originally released July 23rd, 2014.
Patrick: Violence. Abuse. Torture. Slavery. I just named, like, the four worst things in the world. They’re all awful on their own, but each act becomes unfathomably detestable the second you add the descriptor “sexual.” Sexual violence is so horrible, we don’t really know how to process it and we sure as shit don’t know how to talk about it. As a result, so much sexual assault gets swept out of our field of vision, even when we know full-well that it’s going on. The numbers vary wildly, but every study on reporting rape statistics suggests that a shocking number of sexual assaults go unreported. Studies also show that sexual assault, especially toward children, can trigger psychosis and schizophrenia later in life. It’s simply too much for brains to handle, which is why we tend to freak out whenever rape shows up in our pop entertainments. Ales Kot and Tonči Zonjić boldly express our inability to process these moments of pure, unadulterated horror in a breathtaking new installment of Zero. (spoilers for Zero 9 after the jump).Continue reading →