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Written by Andrew Cosby and Johanna Stokes and Drawn by Rafael Albuquerque

Dale and Otis Savage are those rare people who have learned to make the best of a bad situation. The apocalypse has come, and zombies are walking the Earth. But the Savages are still making a living. They specialize in zombie retrieval and zombie eradication. Say your spouse has returned from the dead and is shuffling about, and it breaks your heart to see it; hire the Savage brothers, and they’ll track that zombie down and make sure it goes to its final rest… or they’ll fake it well enough. But their latest mission has gotten hairier than usual. The zombie they’ve been sent to retrieve might hold the secret to reversing the apocalypse, and plenty of parties want him. Oh, and they’ve also acquired a new sidekick: a virgin stripper named Candy.

I had read the first two issues of SAVAGE when they came out but had never seen the conclusion, so it was nice to get a bit of closure to the book. The ending, fortunately, is quite satisfactory. It feels earned; it maintains the wicked sense of humor that the first two chapters excelled with, and it leaves the door cracked open for a sequel but doesn’t make you pant for it. Perfect. I want a book to finish that way.

Where this trade paperback falls down, though, is in the addition of the FEAR THE DEAD one-shot behind the SAVAGE story. Essentially, FEAR is a pin-up book with a thinly put together text story running through it (even though most of the pin-ups have fuck-all to do with what the story is saying). As a three-issue series, SAVAGE could have been printed as a 72-page bookshelf format trade at seven or eight bucks, and would have been a super value. But adding FEAR pushes the package up to 112 pages and ups the cover price to 15 bucks. 15 bucks for 72 pages of worthy material just doesn’t work on the math scale. An unfortunate editorial decision that takes this book down a few notches on the “must buy” scale.

Marc Mason

Written by Chip Mosher and Drawn by Francesco Francavilla

Eric Westfall was out. All the way out. The days of stakeouts, shaking tails, and shooting people were over. He’s got a wife and a kid now, more important things to think about. But when the agency calls and offers him a new assignment that he can’t refuse, he must leave those he loves behind for one he used to. Eric’s ex-girlfriend and former spy Emma has a hard drive full of info that could mean death for hundreds of agents across the world, and she’s about to sell it to the Russians. Now Eric must track her down and stop her, no matter how much the idea tears him up inside. After, he can’t let that happen. Can he?

MISSION isn’t your typical spy thriller. Instead, it stays closer to the ground, working more on the level of a BOURNE than classic BOND (CASINO ROYALE not withstanding). Westfall isn’t a superman; he’s a man, and one who makes mistakes and leads with his heart when it could get him killed. But at the same time, he’s still a bit of a sociopath, and you can’t discount him snapping at any time and killing a number of people. But what also makes the book atypical is that Mosher isn’t afraid to slow down and make sure that the foundation of his story is pure character. Issue three is almost all flashback, showing how Eric and Emma met and fell in love. Normally, at the third issue of five, you’d see a lot of stories pushing character development to the background, but Mosher makes this feel more important than just about anything else he could have thrown into the mix.

Interestingly, I had read part of an earlier iteration of LEFT ON MISSION. Issue two of LEFT ON MISSION: REVENGE by Mosher and drawn by Nye Wright sits among my minicomics collection. And though Mosher has taken his story to a publisher and changed artists, it was interesting to see how much of the story remains intact, and how much Wright and Francavilla interpreted Mosher’s script in similar fashion. In fact, I’m torn about whose work I prefer. But both did an excellent job of bringing Mosher’s ideas to paper, and I enjoyed these issues very much. Having never seen how it ends, I’m looking forward to seeing how it all resolves.

Marc Mason

Written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis and Drawn by Joe Abraham

HERO SQUARED reaches the end of Act Two and gears up for the finale by taking a moment to step back and tell the origins of both Captain Valor and Caliginous. We’ve already heard hints as to how the Valor version of Milo Stone became Valor, but this is the first look at how former love of his life Stephie became his greatest villain. And as befitting the natures of both characters, there’s quite a bit of humor involved in one, and a large dose of pathos in the other. By the time both stories are over, new battle lines are fully drawn, and the final three issues of the book promise to be dandies.

Really, the heart of the book, no matter how you look at it, has become Caliginous, which is sort of surprising. Initially, the alternate Stephie was played solely for evil laughs, but as she tells our Milo her origin (in her own skewed way) you do finally feel sorry for her a little bit. She did truly love her Valor/Milo, and he did things that shattered her heart. She’s taken her pain a bit too far, and clearly lost her mind, but the Giffen-DeMatteis combo has managed to make her a fully character on the page, and you realize she has as much right to survive as the Valor version of Milo, who’s shown himself to be more than just a bit of a prig from the very start. He’s not a dull, one-dimensional character by any stretch, but you don’t really like him, either. The powerless Milo is far more compelling and identifiable, because he’s the most like use- putting yourself in his shoes, you can’t help but feel like you’d react in much the same ways he does.

This has been a good book for so long that I’m not sure it’s ever quite gotten all the credit it deserves. It’s consistent, solid stuff, and every issue has worked on its own and as part of the greater whole. I’ll miss it when it’s gone, but I look forward to keeping up with it along the way.

Marc Mason

Written by Andrew Cosby and Kevin Church and Drawn by Mateus Santolouco

When last we left actor Alex Martin, he was in danger of being killed by conspiracy forces unknown, thanks to his actions as a good Samaritan, and because of it, the movie studio he’s working for hired him a bodyguard. Her name is Rachel Dodd, and not only is she going to have to save Alex’s life… she’s going to have to put up with his bullshit. Unfortunately for Alex, Rachel isn’t the most patient or tolerant person, and she’s immune to his charms. So he’s going to have to learn how to integrate her into his Hollywood routine so he can continue climbing the A-List to stardom.

COVER GIRL, simply, is so much better than issue one of this mini, that it forces you to re-evaluate that opening book. Let’s talk about what this issue does right: the pacing is much better; Rachel is fully present throughout the story, rather than relegated to the last page; the action sequences pick up; the Hollywood party sequence where Rachel plays Alex’s date kills, both as humor and as action set-piece. This is good stuff, front-to-back, and it makes issue one look so pale that I honestly have to go back and call issue one a complete and utter dud. It is that disparate in quality, comparatively.

Sharp dialogue, fine art from Santolouco… I hope that the rest of the series can keep up with this issue, because a regression in the next issue would be a disaster. I’d hate to see a book with such a good premise grind to a screeching halt over continued pacing problems. Can’t wait to see how the creative team fares on it.

Marc Mason

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