“Solider Zero” #5 is not just the beginning of the book’s second story arc, it’s also the debut of its new writing team of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Picking up where Paul Cornell left off, the writing duo has its work cut out for them after Cornell established a strong voice for this book and how the characters interact, even leaving the fourth issue with a big cliffhanger. Last issue ended with Stewart/Soldier being set up for the death of a police officer that the enemy ‘Soldier’ was possessing and, here, he has to deal with the fallout from that in addition to the collateral damage done during the fight like the disintegrated arm of his brother. It’s an issue of the writers finding their footing and beginning to set things up for the new story, resulting in a scattered issue.
The biggest problem with this issue is how much of an effort DnA go to to rehash what happened already, going over the details again and again thanks to Application Nine, a mysterious man who shows up at the hospital to ascertain what happened and take action if necessary. Application Nine is an entertaining character as he uses an iPhone-type device to avoid detection using apps that conceal his identity. However, once we’ve seen him do that once or twice, the novelty wears off and his appearances become tedious, a stalling tactic until the end of the issue and he can confront Stewart/Soldier.
Where the issue succeeds most is in the discussion between the brothers. With the loss of his arm, James requests that he be given Soldier because it could give him his arm back. Since Stewart has been reluctant to embrace his joining with Soldier, James makes the argument that he should have Soldier and take advantage of the healing powers that come with the alien symbiote. Both brothers encountering a physical handicap and there being the means to solve it allows for some added tension and future story possibilities. DnA continuing those themes from Cornell’s tenure on the title help maintain a consistent tone from the first four issues.
The best part of the comic is Javier Pina’s expressive art. The scene between Stewart and James is so hard-hitting because Pina gets across James’s feeling of helplessness and anger at what’s happened. Application Nine is a cool-looking character and most of his tricks are pulled off visually. With a quiet issue, his art doesn’t stand out quite as much as it has in the past, and he adapts to tackle the character-based scenes well. He does have a tendency to add a melodramatic touch here and there, but I’d honestly see characters overreact at times than simply have blank stares.
“Soldier Zero” #5 may welcome a new writing team, but there’s no big change in tone or focus. DnA make an effort to continue on what Paul Cornell started, for both good and bad. For new readers, there’s everything you need to know and, for old ones, there’s a lot of rehashing and repetition with Application Nine.