Everyone knows who Stan Lee is. Of course, most non-comics readers probably think he created Superman and draws for Marvel now or something, but his reach is deservedly wide. Since he left the writing desk long ago he’s now more known for his appearances on TV shows about “real” superheroes and cameos in Marvel films.
No-one expects Lee’s writing to be as revolutionary as the days in the early ‘60s when he gave the world Spider-Man, X-Men, etc but he has nothing to prove anymore and it’s great to see that even as he approaches his 90th birthday he’s still active. BOOM! Studios surprised everyone with their “Stan’s Back” teaser earlier in the year and now we know what it’s all about. Stan Lee’s Soldier Zero is the first cab off the rank, with two more ongoing series (November’s The Traveler and December’s Starborn) to follow, all overseen by Lee and created by others. Paul Cornell is the scribe behind Soldier Zero, with Javier Pina supplying art and Dave Johnson as the designer of the main character. That’s an impressive line-up.
Captain Stewart Trautmann meets a fellow wheelchair bound citizen Shannon in the first few pages of this tale before catching up with his brother James and letting the exposition flow freely. That includes the fact that Trautmann was wounded in the Afghanistan war and is hoping for a relationship with Lily, a woman he works with at the Astrophysics department of Caldon University.
Waiting for a meteor shower with fellow staff members, and students, Trautmann reveals to Lily how he ended up in the wheelchair in an effective flashback to his war service and the pair share in a few awkward moments.
Throughout this issue short scenes of a suited alien attempting to escape a laser firing spaceship show up and in the last third the alien’s world and Trautmann’s collide. Elements of Green Lantern and Firestorm reveal themselves in the use of a human in an intergalactic war and two beings sharing the same body, but Pina’s expressive visuals and likeable lead may just pull this one ahead of the feeling that we’ve seen all this before. So far it’s too early to tell but with the talents involved and deeper themes at work it may just be more than a simple idea given life because of the selling power of Stan Lee’s name on the cover.
Lee has made a very impressive career out of “ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances” scenarios and Soldier Zero looks set to be another one. It’s not something we haven’t seen before, with even Mark Millar’s recent Superior just beating this book to the punch, with a wheelchair bound human becoming host to a powerful being, but the dialogue hear rings true and Trautmann’s doubt about his soldier’s past, coupled with the frustrations of his limited maneuverability and how the world sees him, should make for an interesting mix now that he has a powerful alien suit giving him all sorts of freedoms, and scary powers.
There’s a 6 page preview of the November launching The Traveler, another Stan Lee series by Mark Waid and Chad Hardin. It looks to be another simple tale (bad guy from the future chases a woman while a good guy shows up to protect her) but in Waid’s hands it could be as awesome as Irredeemable.
I’m surprised all 3 of these series are ongoing, I must say. I would’ve thought a mini-series would’ve been the safer bet, but then again, BOOM! (and Stan Lee of course) have a habit of surprising readers. Soldier Zero is a great place to get in on the ground floor of a new superhero series with an accessible feel and attractive art. If you’re sick of convoluted epics and want something more streamlined yet still entertaining, this isn’t a bad place to begin.
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