Today I will be reviewing Jason Shawn Alexander’s Empty Zone. Published by Image comics, Empty Zone is a unique mesh of both cyberpunk and horror. The story focuses on Corinne, a mentally unstable woman haunted by the ghosts of her past. Literally. Oh, and she’s got a mechanical right arm and can download information through direct skin contact. Still with me? Sweet.
Alexander establishes a grim dystopia with beautifully haunting artwork. It’s effective and gritty, creating a future Pittsburgh you probably wouldn’t want to live in. One filled with cyborgs, shady corporations, and spliced humans. As both writer and artist Alexander is in full control of his universe… and let me tell you the guy knows what he’s doing. The pacing is on point and the narrative is filled with clever set ups, fantastic pay offs, and superb world building.
The first Volume Conversations with the Dead (2015) introduces us to the characters that live in Pittsburgh while focusing on Corinne as she confronts the ghosts of her past while battling the Oni Corporation lead by Akanimoh Oni. Volume Two Industrial Smile (2016) leaves the United States and instead takes place in Berlin where Corinne must team up with a new ally to battle augmented cannibals affiliated with Oni.
There are so many great things about this book but what stood out to me the most was the diversity. In my experience there haven’t been many science fiction stories that included this many Africans and African Americans. Corinne’s best friend is an African American man, her lover is an African American woman, and the villainous Oni is an African based in Lagos. It’s refreshing to see such representation especially in science fiction.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Empty Zone and would highly recommend checking it out. A fan of cyberpunk and horror I was drawn to this title the instant I heard about it. I didn’t know about Jason Shawn Alexander prior to this book but you can bet I’ll be keeping an eye on him from now on!