This month marks the return of The Zone Continuum series from multitalented artist Bruce Zick. Getting his start in 1979, Zick has had a stellar career in both the comic and animation industry working as both a comic artist and concept artist/visual developer in animation. His résumé in the animation department is quite the thing to behold, having spent his early career working on several 80s cartoons as a background artist including The Real Ghostbusters and Jonny Quest later moving into film providing visual development, character design and/or concept art on a variety of hit animated films including The Rescuers Down Under, The Lion King, Finding Nemo, WALL-E and most recently Inside Out. During his work in animation, he has also found time to work in the comic industry on several projects including a run on Thor for Marvel and contributing to the Dark Horse Presents anthology series. Amongst these projects was the original Zone Continuum published by Caliber Comics in 1992. Zick rebooted the series in 2006 as a web comic for Komikwerks. The series has now returned in the form of an all-new graphic novel expanding on Zick’s previous work.
The Zones – extra dimensional planes of existence directly corresponding with our own world and populated by an ancient race known only as the Natives! As mankind threatens its own existence with warfare and pollution, so too are the Zones affected, shrinking ever smaller as a result of the havoc wrought upon Earth. Now, the liveable space of Manhattan’s Zone 27 grows dangerously constrained, forcing the Natives ever higher into the skyline and two nigh-immortal champions compete in an invisible war for dominance – but the consequences of their conflict could shatter not only the stability of the Zone Continuum, but also that of reality itself!
As described above, Zick has a diverse range of experience in commercial illustration. His work as a background artist really comes into play in this graphic novel, and can be seen almost immediately in the first few pages. The opening shot of Talon diving through a bleak and intimidating looking New York is exceptionally cool, made all the more impressive by Zick’s use of shadow and colours and the intricate detail he uses for all of the buildings in his cityscape. In the introduction, Zick cites Steve Ditko’s work on Spider-Man as one of the possible reasons he loves rooftops and it’s safe to say that from reading this graphic novel, he’s just as good as Ditko when it comes to bringing a city to life. It does not end with just cityscapes either as Zick manages to enhance many of his scenes with his great set pieces, whether it be a complex sewage system with detail going into every pipe, or tech-heavy command centres.
But The Zone Continuum has plenty more to offer other than its great background art. Zick’s experience in concept art and character design is put to good use as all his characters have great looks that are right at home in the world he has created. Talon is particularly cool-looking, his trench coat and goggles giving quite a pulp/steampunk vibe with some 90s sensibilities thrown in on the more techy parts of his gear. Indeed, this can be used to describe the general visual style of this comic as it successfully blends several eras of art styles together to create something quite unique. These art styles combined with Zick’s great storytelling and layouts make this quite the artistic treat. And to cap it all off, it has a great story too with a refreshing take on the extra-dimension story. Not only are there some great allegories for troubles facing the real world, but also some great character studies on the zone dwellers and the lengths they are pushed to when the state of Earth pushes their plane of existence to the brink.
The Zone Continuum is well worth a read as a showcase of Bruce Zick’s highly impressive art style developed from his years of experience in both the animation and comic industry, and a great sci-fi comic to boot.
The Zone Continuum is published 10 March by Dark Horse
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See Bruce Zick’s work on The Atomic Legion