By: Paul Cornell (writer), Javier Pina & Sergio Arino (art), Archie Van Buren (colors), Ed Dukeshire (letters) & Bryce Carlson (editor)

The Story: We learn a LOT more about “Soldier Zero”, why he is here, how he works, etc.

What’s Good: The first issue of Soldier Zero was not so hot.  It spent a lot of time mewling over the central character and establishing that he was a Marine officer in a wheelchair, but he didn’t need any kind of special help…dammit!  It was okay character work, but we didn’t really see Soldier Zero until the very end.  With that lead in, I was surprised to see that….

This issue really kinda kicks ass!  We learn that this Soldier Zero thing that has come to Earth and bonded with our main character is a combination of Iron Man’s Extremis armor suit and the Trills from the Star Trek universe (or Venom, I guess).  [SPOILERS]  The suit is an alien symbiote, whose original host died during the space battle that was shown, but not explained, in issue #1.  The suit needed to grab someone just to stay alive and it settled for our main character.  The Iron Man thing comes in with how the suit manifests as it just kinda appears and can cover only certain parts of the body if need be, but it is not something that you put on like a pair of pants.

Why is the alien here?  Well, the mission is very interesting as well: It seems to be a modernization of ROM Spaceknight, one of my favorite comics of the early 1980’s.  Somehow Earth has been infiltrated by evil aliens that can assume human shape.  The Soldier Zero construct has fought against them in the past and can see them, but it is probably going to look like he is murdering innocent humans when he zaps them (just like ROM) and he won’t be able to get help from the authorities because he doesn’t know how pervasive the evil aliens are (just like ROM).

While it does seem to be an amalgam of story elements that we’ve seen before, it works for two reasons: One, ROM is so screwed up from an intellectual property standpoint that Marvel will never be able to do that character or even reprint the original comics.  So I’m happy to see someone continuing a ROM-like adventure.  Two, the story is well written and illustrated.  Story concepts are pretty easy, but writing and drawing them in an engaging fashion is hard and the creative team pulled it off (which was an especially difficult challenge given that I really didn’t like issue #1 very much).

What’s Not So Good: Some people aren’t going to be able to see past the obvious influences on this story.  When they see the main character in his Soldier Zero suit with the face mask retracted, they’re just going to see Tony Stark.  Also as I’ve noted above, the concept of an alien symbiote is not very novel in science fiction or comics. “It’s just a knock off!” they’ll scream in frustration.  If you’re that person, go read something else.

More relevant criticism could be with some of the story telling.  We’re getting a lot of exposition about what a proud handicapped person our main character is.  It isn’t that this lacks importance, but I think it would work better from a story standpoint if these elements wove into the story little by little after the first story arc.  For now, let’s just tell an awesome story of this cool Soldier Zero on Earth dealing with these Dire Wraith-like aliens.  I WANT to read that.  I don’t so much want to read about a handicapped man’s angst (or any angst) or sexual dysfunction.

Conclusion: A HUGE improvement from issue #1.  If you read issue #1 and said “meh”, you should give this a second chance.  It appears to be a modern reimagining of a ROM-like story and that is something that has really been missed in comics.

Grade: B

– Dean Stell