Friday, May 18, 2007

CVO: Covert Vampiric Operations - Rogue State #1

CVO: Covert Vampiric Operations - Rogue State #1, November 2004, IDW Publishing
writer: Jeff Mariotte
artist: Antonio Vazquez
colorist: Fran Gamboa
letterer: Tom B. Long
editor: Kris Oprisko

More zombies and vampires. Is this what it takes to keep the comic book industry alive . . . tales of the undead?

Actually, CVO is CSI meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is a welcome variation on the whole violent thirst for human blood shtick. Not that CVO doesn't offer its fair share of gore, but when it's forensic, it's somehow less sensational and somewhat more significant. That's what I'll keep telling myself, anyway.

Despite this issue's #1, Rogue State is but one in a series of miniseries, picking up where the previous title left off and dangling a few plot threads accordingly, which makes me wonder why the series pressed "restart" in the first place. Really, this issue so depended on whatever had happened in the last miniseries that I wonder if #1 status has just become a marketing ploy, a transparent attempt to attract new readership to fledgling or hopeful title. I would've preferred a new case for the CVO, and with my leaning toward its concept already, it might've won me over. As it is, I'm still in the dark . . . which is where vampires feel most comfortable anyway.

In this issue, one of the CVO agents, a former supermodel, discovers that a stalker's infatuation with her may have led to the torture and death of a file clerk in their office, a grunt worker that was still privy to confidential information that could compromise their organization. Apparently, the sanctity of their secret ops are already in jeopardy, thanks to a rogue agent of some sort. A nice blend of espionage and James Bond-like technology (i.e. an uber-tracker that was once owned by Odysseus!) rounds out a well constructed issue, though I contest that the most visually appealed character, a demon dubbed Nikodemus, was relegated to a one-page appearance, and, for a comic book about vampires, everyone else looked too straight edge to drive home that supernatural element. If you work with a guy that looks like the devil, you invite him to every party, that's what I always say. Starting now, at least.

Speaking of this issue's visuals, artist Antonio Vazquez asserts a very Tim Sale-like style, who in turn is inspired by many European artists, so I've heard -- in fact, I thought this issue's cover was a Tim Sale special, the styles look so similar! In my opinion, Vazquez barely retains his own voice throughout this issue, as even the colors by Fran Gamboa, a digital watercolor wash, look like the kind of flair found over Sale's work on The Long Halloween Batman series or his Marvel "spectrum" minis. Thankfully, if an artist is going to emulate anyone, Sale is a good choice thanks to his unique skills, so this book still retained an illustrative identity all its own, and if that's really a monster in the closet on the last splash, a little Sale/Mignola jam couldn't hurt, either.

I don't intend to slam Vazquez for any unoriginality, but I confess a difficulty in avoiding the accusation with any zombie or vampire title nowadays. I think I've used this analogy before, but the more comics depend on this genre, the more it will lurch forward with the same undead vigor, arms outstretched, seeking humanity's blood, but tapping very little into its soul. How many angles can one approach an open grave? And what happens when vampires overtake the industry completely, rivaling only superheroes for the top title championship?

They'll do what vampires do best. They'll suck.

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