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Vampires, vampires everywhere, and plenty of blood to drink. It has been said before, by me, if memory serves, that these days it seems like you can’t change the channel, browse a comic rack, or download a game without tripping over a vampire or two. The only undead fantasy monster there might be more of are zombies. IDW’s Outbreak series has both. In an over-saturated market, are these the monsters you’re looking for?
Outbreak follows the endeavors of the government-funded CVO or Covert Vampiric Operations. This three vampire team is composed of Cross, the leader, Britt, the hot chick, and Bools, the guy absolutely everyone is in love with, except only those that are not Bools himself. Assisting the soldiers in their fight are Benny, a zombie scientist and “nerd,” Nikodemus, a “Demon Consultant” with horns to next week and a name that reminds me how much I love Secret of NIMH, and some government muggles. At the end of a recent zombie apocalypse, Cross absorbed a ton of magic tech and saved the day, Britt was possessed by the final boss, and Bools was, presumably, a dick. This is where Outbreak #2 ended.
However, you might be able to tell from the title that this is not a straight continuation. Infestation Outbreak #1 is one in IDW’s massive event that crosses over many series in their catalog with zombies and even other series. As such, this is not your standard story continuation. This is the greatest weakness of the comic, but it might also be its greatest strength.
As the first issue in a new series there is bound to be quite a bit of time devoted to establishment. This would be fine, but unfortunately the issue also has to work on transitioning to a new story arc. Since it is still unclear what exactly has happened to Cross and Britt, the CVO has hired two new agents in training: the beefy Isaac and reptilian Yumiko. When all is said and done, this one issue is split between Bools learning to work with a new team, Cross figuring out his new powers, Britt being bitter, and the establishing of the Infestation storyline. If that sounds like it might be spread a bit thin, then it sounds like you might be a bit perceptive.
Still, writers Chris Ryall and Tom Waltz do a surprisingly good job of balancing all these disparate ideas. I definitely found this issue to be too busy, but it was handled better than I would have expected. The reveal for the cross-over characters is mercifully left until the last page, so how exactly they will tie into immediate events will presumably be handled further in the next issue. All in all, Ryall and Waltz do a good job with this as a first issue. You will probably not be blown away right at the start here, but, now that most things are established, the best is yet to come. All the potential inherent in a first issue is made that much more exciting by what might be coming because of the Infestation event.
David Messina’s art is not greatly detailed, but it gets the job done. There are some really nice background touches, such as Benny’s constant struggle to find a suitable replacement arm for himself. Cross’s midair magic glyphs look tremendous, but the special effects are few and far between. The all-important violence is decent, but typically ends up looking cramped with lots of smaller panels on a single page. Kung Fu monster-fighting demands to be seen on a large screen.
Infestation Outbreak #1 is an overall very solid book. There are problems, but they are primarily the same difficulties that plague any first chapter in a story. In time, we’ll see if the potential on offer ends up as just another unnecessary cross-over or if it will be the vampire story to separate itself from the pack.