Cashing in on his esteemed and legendary career (as he faces mounting legal costs, the scuttlebutt goes), Stan Lee’s return to creating new comic characters was heavily publicized by Boom! Studios. Starting with enigmatic posters that hinted at Stan’s return, Boom followed through with an advertising campaign that plastered his legendary signature on every major website and industry magazine. Awesome. Stan Lee was back! Except when the first issue of Soldier Zero arrived on comic stands, it was a creative travesty.
In fairness, Stan Lee wasn’t ‘writing’ these titles alone. More a creative force in their formation and plotting, the latest issue of Soldier Zero credits him as the “Grand Poobah”. That’s all fun and quirky, but if I am seeing Stan Lee’s famous signature in the logo’s lettering – clearly attempting to associate this new series with all of those “other” characters – I’m probably expecting his role to be greater than an unclear and self-deprecating made up position.
Sadly, that is what you are getting with the Soldier Zero series. A lot of marketing machine and nonsensical plotting that is trying very hard to be epic and ‘mythos building’. So hard in fact, that all connection and empathy with the protagonist is lost. What made character’s like Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Fantastic Four so appealing to readers back in the 60s is the very ingredient lacking in this comic.
The plot, in brief (not hard to do, considering how thin the plot is), revolves around an alien symbiotic battle suit crashing to Earth and bonding with a young man who has lost his legs. The protagonist is then propelled into a galactic war, and as we learn this issue, the suit/parasite is going to attempt to subjugate his mind/personality. And the government is trying to steal the tech for itself (sadly a rather standard story trope these days). It’s not that I expect the plot to necessarily be deeply developed after only 7 issues, but rather, my problem is with how much I, and no one else I know, cares about the character or what will happen next in the story.
Soldier Zero #1 had phenomenal sales, but readers fled from this and the other two titles (even worse reads) in droves as the series progressed. I did notice with issue #7 that the original writer, Paul Cornell (Doctor Who, Batman & Robin), had been replaced by the creative super-team of Dan Abnett (The Legion, Ultramarines) and Andy Lanning (The Authority, Realm of Kings). These guys are writing gold, especially when it comes to epic sci-fi conflicts, but even their ramped up dialogue didn’t make me want to keep reading this series.
Sorry, Stan. You have always been a marketing guru, and I don’t fault you in the slightest for cashing in on your years of forging iconic comic characters. Soldier Zero though, is a terrible read, and a sad bookend to your legendary creative career!