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The ’90s Revisited: Zen Intergalactic Ninja Alternity Saga #0

Zen Intergalactic Ninja Alternity Saga #0Writer/Artist: Bill Maus
Plot: Steve Stern
Letters: Karen Hathaway
Editor: Don Chin
Cover Sculpture: Tom Taggart
Published by: Entity Comics
Cover Date: June/July 1993
Cover Price: $2.95

I remember seeing an issue of Zen Intergalactic Ninja back in the early 1990s–whether it was the first or second mini-series is lost to me, but it was one of the Archie Comics-published issues. Yet to this day, I’ve read exactly two issues that I’m aware of: a 1994 “sourcebook” and this issue.

I recently snagged a bunch of Zen comics from a bargain bin (though I know some of them at least are duplicates of a bunch of issues I bought awhile back and haven’t made it around to reading yet). Of these immediately-convenient issues, I chose this one as a #0 and I believe it was the oldest that I saw from a chronology published in the 1994 Sourcebook. I wanted to go back as far as I could to start my Zen reading experience.

The cover’s pretty sturdy–a much heavier stock than even most contemporary comics (sorta had to be, given the foil stamping, I suppose). But the interior pages are the old newsprint, and extremely flimsy by comparison. Also, this is in black and white–something I’m primarily only used to seeing in The Walking Dead or old TMNT comics. I do like the cover painting–the reference in the credits to a cover sculpture makes me wonder if there’s photography involved. Whatever the case, the Zen on the cover doesn’t look like the character inside the issue–I’m assuming this one’s homage to an old version of the character.

Maus‘ art is pretty good–I like the character designs, particularly Zen himself, as well as the other alien he encounters in this issue. While the lack of color takes away some brightness and contrast, it doesn’t really bother me. There are some panels that I’m not entirely clear what’s going on–it’s a bunch of lines and whitespace to me–by and large I followed right along and kept track of what was going on.

Story-wise…I know some very basic info about the character’s origin as related by that 1994 Sourcebook, but overall I pretty much just know Zen as the protagonist, he’s some alien, and he’s got some sort of power-stick as a weapon…and ninja skills (given “Intergalactic Ninja,” after all).

This issue starts with Zen in a spaceship getting shot at by another…he retaliates, and winds up following the other ship down to the planet. The two fight, but eventually realize that everything’s been a huge misunderstanding. As Zen and his new buddy face what’s happened, another figure enters the scene: Paradoxx (yeah, with a double-x on the end of the name, cuz hey, it was the 1990s!). This threat seems to be at the end of some sort of time-loop, promising huge trouble for Zen, as we’re told the next issue begins something called The Alternity Saga. An epilogue scene introduces several other characters that will likely become major factors in the Alternity Saga at least, possibly other Zen comics.

I really enjoyed this issue overall. For as little as I know about this character, I really didn’t feel lost or anything–I just followed along, taking in what’s given as part of the story and art, and vaguely recognized the epilogue characters from other covers and such. The primary drawback is that this Alternity Saga seems promising…but unless I’ve got the other issues from a previous purchase, I’m missing a big chunk of it, which makes me hesitant to dive into the next issue anytime soon: it’ll leave me on a 19-year-old cliffhanger where I have no clue when I’ll be able to get the rest of the story.

This issue as a whole is typical 1990s fare, early ’90s at that, and reminiscent of the TMNT to me as far as the black and white format and being an indy book with creators I’m not familiar with for DC, Marvel, etc. Particularly marking this as a 1990s book is the gold foil stamping all over the issue. The picture frame, the publisher logo and #, price, etc, the Zen logo itself, and of course the blurb “Explosive 1st Entity Issue.” This is from back when #1s were all the rage, even #0s, plus the foil stamping. This is the “1st” (as opposed to “first”–gotta have that “1” on the cover) issue published by Entity Comics, but is not the first issue of Zen to exist–I believe there are almost a dozen other issues published before this one.

The issue’s definitely well worth the 25-cents I paid for it. If you can find a handful of Zen issues together in a bargain bin, they’re probably worth snagging. This one certainly was.

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