PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Once More, With Feeling: Stan Lee's Soldier Zero #8

Charles Moss
Exit Stratagem: The theme of escape becomes exceedingly relevant not only to the characters but to the writing team needing to defeat genre expectations, as well.

The real question for Soldier Zero, flagship title of industry legend Stan Lee's new line of comicbook heroes, is not whether the character can compete with Lee's classic Marvel creations like Spider-Man, Hulk and Iron Man, but how.

Stan Lee's Soldier Zero #8

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Andy Lanning, Dan Abnett, Javier Pina
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2011-06

The making of a true superhero often involves tough choices, sacrifice, and determination. Many of Stan Lee’s classic character origin stories involve some sort of inner conflict, some sort of trial period in which they must overcome that conflict to become the hero they were meant to be. Spider-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man. There is a reason these characters have been around for as long as they have. Lee was able to add dimension to them, make them more relatable by giving them real problems and insecurities – alcoholism, girl problems, anger issues. His newest creation, Soldier Zero, is trying really hard to walk among these giants.

Picking up immediately after the events of issue #7, Stan Lee’s Soldier Zero #8 concludes the 'Handling the Truth' storyline with lots of action. Stewart Trautmann struggles to gain control of the alien biosyte hardware while being chased by U.S. Government agents that want the newfound tech for “testing” all while being led by a shape-shifting man named Application Nine, whom Trautmann still doesn’t know if he can trust yet.

So yeah, the action is on. Here’s the thing: it all feels a little bit familiar.

We all know that comic books, like other forms of mass media, recycle plots, characters, and ideas. Some of them are successful. Many others are not. Creators borrow elements from other comics and incorporate them into their own. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby did it with Captain America. Captain Marvel is more than coincidentally similar to Superman. It seems, at least with this issue, Writers Lanning and Abnett are trying a bit too hard.

There’s a scene where Trautmann is racing to escape from the government agents or Clowns, as they are called in the story, with Kaylee – the friend of Lily, with whom our hero is in love – in tow. They blast through the hospital wall and escape temporarily. Kaylee asks "What do I call you?" And Trautmann responds, "Soldier Zero". She then says "What are we going to do, Soldier Zero?" and he says, "We’re going to get the hell out of here".

It reminds me of the scene in Star Wars where Luke is rescuing Princess Lea and she says, "Who are you?" and he says "I’m Luke Skywalker and I’m here to rescue you". Yes, I’m sure plenty of people thought that line was cheesy. I’m sure some even called it cliché. In my opinion, though, Lucas pulled it off. Why? Because he intended for it to be a nod to the old action movie serials he watched as a kid.

Except in his version, the knights, princesses and cowboys all existed in a fictional galaxy, an idea that had never been done before. (Okay, Gene Roddenberry did something similar in Star Trek a few years prior but still, the idea was pretty fresh). It’s as if the writers pulled it from a template and inserted the characters’ names. In fact, the whole scenario in this issue seems like an action movie/comic book template that’s been done over and over again.

It’s not the idea of Soldier Zero that’s the problem. It’s a good concept and has a lot of potential. Javier Pina’s artwork is flashy and fun, creating a thrill ride for the eyes. If only the writing was as strong.

Soldier Zero #8 is about controlling one’s destiny. It’s something that Trautmann is forced to deal with. Will he or will he not be strong enough to overcome the power of the suit, to obtain that control so he can finally find balance in his life to become the hero he needs and wants to be. The problem is that it’s not done in a particularly fresh way. To be more specific, the dialogue is cliché and wooden, which leaves the characters – especially Trautmann – with no real emotional depth to them. It’s difficult to care about the hero’s journey if the reader doesn’t buy into the struggle in the first place.

As history has proven, we all want that emotional connection with our heroes. Will Soldier Zero become a classic comic book character ranking up there with Lee’s mightiest heroes? It’s going to take more than alien biosyte armor and a man with an arsenal of cell phones apps to know for sure.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.