by Courtney Ryan. When society collapses and corruption reigns it’s up to the youth of today to save the planet for the people of tomorrow. Or something like that. It doesn’t matter if that isn’t historically accurate because the people who need to believe it—young people—aren’t as concerned with history as us older, wiser, cynical, and sleepy folks. They act with urgency, fear irrelevance, and are so rooted in the here and now that both the past and present are abstract concepts. It’s when young people are armed with both idealistic abandon and world-weary cynicism that things really get interesting, and that’s what makes Fred Van Lente’s teen superhero adventure so sublime.
As introduced in the first installment of Generation Zero, a group of psiots (Valiant’s version of mutants, people with extraordinary powers of the mind) were kidnapped as children and trained to become killing machines. Now teenagers, they are free of their captors, using their powers for justice by helping righteous teenagers in need.
In issue #2 we pick up with our righteous teen Keisha Sherman, who called on Gen Zero to help her find out why her boyfriend was killed after questioning their small Michigan town’s seedy business ventures. Now that the teen strike force has arrived, we start to see more of the community’s conventional, yet slightly off-putting, social structure, and find her dad might be hiding secrets of his own. We also get a little tease of teen love, naturally.
As an awkward and overly self-aware high school student, Keisha is a sensitive and relatable audience surrogate. Thanks to Francis Portela’s art and Andrew Dalhouse’s colors, we’re easily immersed in her world, where cliques torment outcasts by dangling their exclusive keggers in front of them, and parents fail to register how life-ending one embarrassing moment in front of potential new friends can be. Van Lente, who worked with Portela and Dalhouse on Ivar and Timewalker, deftly juggles the story’s supernatural elements with its teen mystery dramedy backdrop, all while creating nuanced and recognizable characters.
Generation Zero takes the escapist fantasies of lonely teenagers navigating their high school years and ignites those them with three-dimensional characters and a gripping saga. Fred Van Lente continues the promise of his debut by ratcheting everything up a notch, setting the stage for what feels to be a satisfying story.
Written by Fred Van Lente.
Illustrated by Francis Portela.
Colored by Andrew Dalhouse.
Lettered by Dave Sharpe.
8 out of 10