Xero #1 (May, 1997)
Writer – Christopher Priest
Penciller – Chriscross
Inker – Tom Simmons
Colorist – Gloria Vasquez
Letterer – Willie Schubert
Editors – Dan Thorsland & Alisande Morales
Cover Price: $1.75
Stupid things to lose sleep over… do I call it “Xero” or “Xer0“? Let’s just go with the first one…
We open with a D.E.A. Agent named Rick being submerged into the drink. He’s being pulled to the bottom by a rather large stone. Luckily for him, Xero was happening by. He (Xero) straps some scuba equipment to Rick and rescues him from drowning. Above water, he interrogates the nearly-drowned fella… ya see, they appear to have similar goals. Ricks doesn’t appear to be all that keen on spillin’ the beans… but a sock to the mush does the trick.
The person Xero is after is called Maltano… and he’s hid out on the underwater “den of iniquity” known as The Greta Garbo. Xero heads over to the Garbo, and, using the X-Enzymes he’s been imbued with he’s able to phase through its walls. X-Enzymes? We’ll get there…
Inside, Xero sheds his costume and attempts to fit in with the movers and shakers. They’re gamblers… and it would appear that tonight’s “big money” is on an NBA game. Large screens show an interview with the Whatever City (National City?) Vipers power forwards… well, one of the power forwards. It would seem as though Coltrane “Trane” Walker hasn’t showed up.
As Xero scans the floor (and the people on it) with his “DeadEye”, the screen transitions to a story about “Trane”. Seems he’s kind of a “bad boy” in the NBA… and this was back when that sort of thing was, well.. a thing.
Xero then finds his man… Carl Maltano, who is currently indisposed. No matter, Xero walks through the bathroom wall and grabs the fool by the collar. Ya see, he’s looking for a key.
Maltano ain’t talking… so, Xero ups the stakes by, well… jamming a gun into his chin. That’s part of his “SkyTrane” training, donchaknow. Heyyy… Trane… hmm, ya don’t think?! Worth noting, another bad guy knocks on the bathroom door to check on ol’ Carl… and we learn that Xero can do a pretty good Carl Maltano imitation. Must go over huge at parties! Xero finds out that the key is inside Maltano’s DayRunner… which I’m guessing is his planner. Back news though… that DayRunner is at the goon table… meaning, it’s surrounded by goons.
That’s okay though… Xero is a killing machine. He starts taking goons out in sorta creative ways, until…
… there’s a riot! No, Xero hasn’t been found out… it’s just a stampede of “high rollers” looking to change their NBA bet. Ya see, Trane isn’t going to play… and that changes everything! Then… shots are fired… and everything goes to pot.
Like, The Greta Garbo starts to fall to pieces… big time!
Xero manages to grab the DayRunner and make a clean-ish escape. He rejoins Rick… who is surprised to learn that Xero is… a Closer. Closers “fix” things… and since Rick himself failed to get the key… Xero was sent in to make things right.
We jump ahead a few hours… and over to East St. Louis, where a man is holding his waitress hostage because the eggs she served him were too cold. Xero measures his options… should he intervene? A DeadEye scan reveals that the man’s gun wasn’t loaded… so, he figures the waitress (Kelli) isn’t really in all that much danger. Besides… he’s gotta other things to do.
Xero pulls up to the Wakefield Arena… removes his rubber face mask… and reveals himself to actually be “Trane” Walker. Wha—–?! Okay yeah, I think we all saw that coming.
Inside, Walker argues with his teammates… and there isn’t a whole lot more to say about that.
We wrap up with yet another reveal. Back at “home”, we learn that Trane Walker is actually… a dead man. “Blown to bits” years earlier, and only back among the living due to that X-Enzyme we mentioned a little ways back. His brother, Trent is (or might be) the fella behind the X-Enyzme… the SkyTrane, and the DriveTrane. Hopefully this will be fleshed out a bit better over the next few issues. Trane is contacted by his… boss, who gives him the thumbs-up on “closing” the Moltano case… meanwhile, all he can think about is whether or not he should’ve saved Kelli the Waitress.
So… what’d we think?
Well, it’s an interesting story… I guess. And the character of Xero/Xer0 is pretty cool. I’m not a big James Bond guy… hell, I haven’t seen a single one… but, I feel like this might be a souped up take on that sort of character.
This was before DC allowed Priest to go hog-wild with the Frasier segues… which, I feel only really worked in Quantum and Woody anyway… so, instead we just get great big walls of text. That could work, if we were dealing with a character we had a vested interest in. Xero is a whole new deal, and we literally don’t know him from Adam… and so, it’s difficult (at least for me) to go “all in” on these blocks of text.
The narration is clunky… I get the impression that we’re being told this story from the point of view of Xero… and yet, he refers to himself in the third person. I’m not sure if that’s a riff on some ego-heavy athletes of the day (Deion Sanders, perhaps?)… but, it makes for a clumsy read.
We talked yesterday about The Weinbergs… and how we were just hammered over and over again with names and concepts… and by the end of it, it just felt like a rat king of ideas shambling toward us. With all of the “Trane” talk here, I felt the same way. Did we really need to hear about both “DriveTrain” and “SkyTrane”? I mean, I might be a bit denser than most, but it took a second read for me to figure out what was going on at The Greta Garbo to begin with… I certainly don’t need all these concepts flung at me without context.
The big “reveals” here… were well done enough, I suppose. From the first mention of “SkyTrane”, I had that sneaking suspicion that there was more to Xero than meets the eye. Also, the fact that he referred to himself (I think twice) as 6′ 6″ kinda got my attention. Still… a pretty neat idea. Trane Walker having been “killed” earlier… I guess that’s also a neat idea that can be explored as the series moves forward.
The art here from Chriscross is really good. I usually enjoy his work… thought he was a blast on the Peter David run of Captain Marvel. The storytelling, however… was a little bit muddy. Again… just like The Weinbergs yesterday… panel/scene transitions were a bit hinky. Maybe Priest was already in that “Frasier” mode at this point… I really don’t know. All’s I’m saying is that it was tough to follow in places.
Overall… a fun curiosity from the post-boom “throw it at the wall” era of DC Comics. Might be worth a look… however, it’s also one’a these books…
… just like Young Heroes in Love, Sovereign Seven, and Relative Heroes, this is one of those creator-owned “deals”. So, I wouldn’t be holding my breath for this to be collected or made available digitally. Though, stranger things have happened…