CVO: Covert Vampire Operations – African Blood (#1 – 4) – El Torres

3 out of 5

This is a pretty bleak little vampire tale, scribed as another installment to some other CVO stores (which I haven’t read), bringing in the reliably interesting El Torres to script.

CVO stands for Covert Vampire Operations: a government sect of special ops agents who are, wouldn’tyaknow, vampires.  We’ll assume something heavy went down in the prior CVO tale, as African Blood picks up a year later, with the group (co-run by a suit wearing demon) being funded and reconstituted for a new mission – taking down a drug-dealing zombie warlord in Africa.

This is the pitch for something much more one-liner laden, and Torres gives us a character who fits that bill, but sits it all behind stoic leader Cross, who keeps reflecting back to his human life, and a military tour in the same area of Africa that saw him lose a friend.  Natch: the friend is now a zombie, in service of the dude they’re going after.

While the story primarily follows the beats you’d expect, El seems very focused on grounding it in business politics and Cross’s inner monologue.  It doesn’t cut too deep on either of those – and an oddball set of flashbacks from other characters in issue three is a weird distraction – but it still gives the series an appreciated bit of weight that it didn’t have to have.  Meanwhile, there’s still plenty of action and blood (and sentient, flying zombie heads) to keep things moving.

On art, J. Luis Czerniawski line work is very clunky, and Fran Gamboa’s colors are flat as heck, and maybe confused as to whether Cross is white or black.  This was 2006, mind you – for whatever reason, this look was kind of par for the IDW course at the time.

As a Torres fan, CVO was another indicator of the dude’s ability to work within the confines of genre to offer glimmers of interest.  As a vampire book, it’s certainly not much of a standout, but it’s a passable, generally entertaining read.