Title: Channel Zero
Publisher: Dark Horse
Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Brian Wood (with Becky Cloonan)
Cover: Brian Wood
Although it’s been well over ten years since the first issue came out, Channel Zero still feels like it could’ve been written today. Brian Wood stumbled upon a theme and style that still resonates strongly in the present.
The story revolves around the gritty American dystopian future seen in many post-Orwellian works. Although it takes place in New York City, the themes, from government suppression of the media, religious extremism, and the presence of militant police, are worldwide themes that reflect the time it was written in the late-90s (and still applies today). However, the story and style make it feel freshly original. For one thing, there is no one central character that the book follows around. Much like a William Gibson novel, this story follows several protagonists who don’t necessarily know each other, but whose actions influence their surroundings. The voicing has an “up yours” punk like tone to it that doesn’t try to make friends.
However, as good as the story is, not enough praise can be given to the artwork. Imagine going to your local independent record store and seeing all of those punk pictures stickered on the wall. That’s the style of Channel Zero. It’s a mix between underground, graphic art, and noir, showing that Brian Wood had a great deal of talent early on. There was never a dull moment in the artwork, and each panel was presented with class and style.
The TPB has been adapted flawlessly, and includes a foreword by Warren Ellis. It’s his usual row, fight the powah spiel that works well with this collection and gets you psyched for it. This also has a lot of great extras and short stories, which makes it a recommended buy even for those who have already read the main series before.
Despite its merits, there is one major flaw to Channel Zero. Now, most people would clearly define me to the left and certainly not near the right. However, just because I agree with many of the statements in Channel Zero, doesn’t mean I enjoy being hit with the morality hammer at the turn of every page. Obviously, Channel Zero is going to be very theme driven with its in your face anarchistic manner. Still, there’s a fine line between having a strong message and overdoing it. If the story’s good enough, then the message will be strong in and of itself. The theme should occasionally take a backseat to the story, not the other way around.
Regardless of its heavy handed nature, Channel Zero is a groundbreaking comic that still kicks ass and has serious integrity. If you’re a fan of The Nightly News or Scarlet, then you definitely need to pick this one up. And with nearly three hundred pages of stark, black and white goodness, this should be put on your shelf if you’re looking for something left of the dial.