Netflix Teen Superhero Series ‘Zero’ is a Solid Twist on the Genre

Julien Neaves, Editor

Ever heard the saying, “Not all heroes wear capes”? While it refers to ordinary people who do heroic acts it can also be applied literally to the superhero genre as not all heroes have capes as part of their ensemble. And as Edna “E” Mode from The Incredibles would tell you, that is a good thing.

And one cape-less hero is the titular Zero from Netflix’s Italian teen superhero drama series. It tells the story of a second-generation Senegalese immigrant, comic book artist, and pizza delivery worker named Omar (Giuseppe Dave Seke) living in a barrio in Italy. Omar has been figuratively invisible all his life but when he discovers he has the ability to literally turn invisible he joins forces with four other teens to save the Barrio from ruthless criminals.

There’s something strange, in this neighbourhood…

In a world of epic superhero fare like Endgame and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, Zero goes the completely opposite direction to tell a very small and grounded story featuring an atypical superhero. Omar is a quiet, friendly, and optimistic young man who dreams of leaving the Barrio and making it big in the comic book world.
Even after discovering his ability he doesn’t want to be a hero and has to be cajoled into it. But once he begins on his hero’s journey he proves to be quite brave, loyal, and forthright.

He doesn’t have the tragic orphan cliche as his parents are both alive. He lives with his stern father but his mother left when he was a younger in a tragic incident. His “costume” is his mother’s football jersey with the number “zero”, which is his way of honouring her. He also lives with his younger sister Awa, a perky volleyball player who is slowly losing her eyesight.

As your friend I have to tell you something—that hat, it’s not working for you

When social media-obsessed, self-appointed community saviour Shariff discovers Omar’s invisibility powers he christens him “Zero” and brings into his circle that includes friendly giant Momo, sassy Sara, and footballer Inno. These characters are all fun and likeable though I most enjoyed the fast-talking Shariff and fun-loving Momo. Sara was also cool with her sharp tongue but Inno was just kind of there, and the subplot with his football career struggles didn’t really go anywhere.

The crew’s adventures are set to one toe-tapping, head-nodding urban and pop soundtrack. The music is a mix of English, Spanish, and Italian and I was so entertained i was tempted to look up some of the artistes. I mean, I didn’t look them up but the temptation was very strong. And speaking of language, the original dialogue is in Italian with a few pinches of Spanish. There is an English dub but if you know me, I prefer subtitles as you get a more authentic experience. And overall the acting is very good here, especially from Seke in the lead.

Have you ever watched the American movie Jungle Fever?

Also delivering a laudable performance is actress Beatrice Grannò as Anna, a very rich and very sweet engineering student and Omar’s love interest. She and Seke have a cute and easy chemistry and I found myself looking forward to their scenes of their romancing. While the concept of a love story between a poor character and a rich character is not exactly groundbreaking, Omar and Anna (Omanna if you will) surprisingly avoid most of the tropes, and I appreciated that.

One superhero trope the series does employ is the hero hiding their ability from their love interest. I guess if you change everything it wouldn’t be a superhero series any more. And I liked the presentation of Omar’s power. The invisibility effects are effective and I liked that it was tied to his emotions, which added some welcome tension to several scenes.

Rico (something something in Spanish) Sauve…

And tension, suspense, and thrills is what the series has to offer in terms of superhero stuff. This is not an action-heavy series by any stretch, so if you’re looking for that you will be disappointed. But I found myself gripped by the riveting scenes of Omar/Zero using his powers and never knowing if he would suddenly turn visible in front of his enemies.

And speaking of enemies, Miguel Gobbi Diaz is decent enough as vicious thug Rico. He’s not the deepest character but he delivers on the menace. There is also a shadowy lady with a tattoo in the back of her head (that must have hurt) called The Virgin but it is unclear whether she is foe or friend. I can confirm, however, that she is definitely creepy.

Cellophane, Mister Cellophane
Shoulda been my name, Mister Cellophane
Cause you can look right through me, walk right by me
And never know I’m there, I tell ya

The plot follows the expected beats and there are not many twists to be found here. But the unique hero and setting does keep things fresh and interesting. The season ends with one intriguing cliffhanger that appears to be taking the show in a new direction, and I am interested to see how that goes.

So if you’re burnt out on the big Hollywood superhero movies and are looking for something a little different then why not try Zero? And despite its name, I will have to give it a 7.5 out of 10.

For more non-traditional superhero content from outside the US you can check out my review of German film Freaks: You’re One of Us by clicking here, or Senior Writer Sommer’s review of Spanish film Unknown Origins by clicking here.

B0FC059B-BBEE-47CF-90E4-D588C1BACD93 Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.