Title: Project 0
Author: Charles Agbaje
Artist: John Agbaje
Publisher: Central City Tower
The story is a popular one, but that is not a diatribe in and of itself. There are three central characters: Aatu, Bea, and Owen; the last is considered an “outsider” (alien) whose origin remains part of the unlocking established earlier. I latched onto the Aatu name, which bears a less than uncanny resemblance to “Klaatu,” so I was expecting the same level of innocence and naïveté as the iconic sci-fi visitor from film…both of which delivered. The story is centric to Owen’s desire to return home, but it is his curiosity (and those of his detractors in the second part of the tale) that is the real interest in this fable.
The artwork is refreshing, and pays tribute to all the right tenets found in comic book art: e.g. when in despair, Owen is drawn with a lot of negative space circumventing his form, providing an agoraphobic effect that comes across quite nicely. The artistic approach is highly reminiscent of early (sketchy) Steve Rude; it is angular and dynamic with lofty camera placement that would be daring to pull off in a conventional film.
The story conjures up reminders of two Hollywood efforts, E.T. and Escape to Witch Mountain. The story is told in two parts, both completely different from one another in terms of approach and perspective. It is an innocent tale, at least the first part is, but manages to be provocative in its own way with embracing and crisp visuals, and again, unassuming storytelling elements that lend to the progression of most neo-sci-fi. Without question, the emphasis in Project 0 is spent on developing the mentioned characters; this emphasis has taken precedence over developing the central plot. Not that it meanders, but it wasn’t until much later that I could comfortably connect the dots and establish a vector to where the authors were headed. If this was their plan, it worked, in that there was never an instance where the reader was bludgeoned over the head with unnecessary cause and effect for each panel. The writers assume that a real, no-nonsense synergy exists between the reader and the story, one of mutual support and patience without any attention management hangups, which is a good thing.
The narration switches things up in the second part, with plenty of action which will hold the attention of manga fans. This segment is quite a departure from the first part, a real Jurassic shift in pace and storytelling mechanics. Here we see the desperation our three friends must endure, and the means by which they might escape, in order to protect their outsider friend. Cited throughout is Owen’s need to return home (our protagonists are dedicated to building a flying machine and completing the chore), and all the right devices are in place for translating this sentiment. Some allegories to misplaced childhood come charging in, which are augmented by a clear and present threat: a totalitarian regiment replete with military deciders, bent on bringing in the sole miscreant that somehow serves as a threat to their order. This is what pushes the story along, and although it sounds conventional, it is handled with the care and grace that most labors of love run familiar.
There is some mono y mono here, but mostly it is about a small group of souls whose intentions are good, but alas misunderstood, which to me targets the readership at an early angst ridden age. But the approach benefits being apart from most independent comics of this caliber that are willing to further the art. I am going to continue following this story, as it treads with all the right intentions, and at the very least, is downright interesting.
Review copy provided by the publisher.