“FVZA” is the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency, a tossed salad of high concept ideas. At its heart is a government organization that wiped out the zombie and vampire infestation this nation faced earlier in its life. The undead, of course, are rising again now and the agency is being brought back to life to face it.
Based on a website by Richard S. Dargan., writer David Hine goes to great lengths to duplicate its feel by pouring on the history lessons in the first half of the book. In fact, most of this book is people telling stories about things that happened in the past. Sadly, this robs the book of much of its energy and pacing. Page after page of narration over a slideshow of violent images doesn’t get the reading juices flowing. It’s a storytelling style that works well on a website, I’m sure, but is death on the comics page.
The book comes alive in the brief moments that its central cast of characters actually do something besides stand around and listen to or tell stories to one another. But those moments are too fleeting to give the reader enough to grab onto. Hine is so concerned with laying out the alternate history that the protagonists and antagonists are left to fill in brief gaps where they can.
The nominal star of the book is Landra, who was raised by her grandfather, who was once involved in the FVZA. He taught her to fear and fight the long-dormant vampire and zombie population, often at extreme length. She’s the closest we have to a rooting interest in the book — you feel for her messed up childhood and hope that she can overcome the problems that lead to the opening scene in the book, in which she’s threatening to kill the man who raised her, prompting the issue-long flashback and history lesson. There’s also a vampire who’s a little too confident, a vampire boss who’s very horrific, and some street Goths who learn what real vampires are capable of.
We’ve been introduced to the characters, but now I want to learn more about them. If the next two parts of this mini-series concern themselves with that, it could make for an interesting story.
The art in this 44 page story is from Roy Allan Martinez, with Radical’s painted style applied by Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo. It works about as well as you’d expect this art style to. The painting might cover any imperfections in the underlying art, or the painting might emphasize the features of the art that are less desirable. The results are inconsistent, with some scenes working better than others. I liked the opening scene, and the final page detail is strikingly done. Inbetween, there are a lot of photorefs walking stiffly around with occasional panels that don’t look so posed. It’s tough to tell if the worst of that is done in the painting or in the drawing, though. The good news is that it doesn’t come out as a muddy mess. Radical’s high production quality standards are a big help. This is some heavy glossy paper they’re using.
I like Radical’s 44-story page format for $5, along with a healthy preview in the back and a creator interview. But the book could use a little more story along the way, and what it does tell should be shown more. “FVZA” shows promise, but we won’t see it until the next issue, at least.