“Survival Fetish” #1 is the exciting, sparse, elegant debut issue.An exciting new debut from Black Mask Studios, “Survival Fetish” #1 is a brand new black and white series that follows a runner as he tries to move supplies through a gang war zone. It’s exciting and different and you can read all our thoughts about it, along with some mild spoilers in our review.
Written by Patrick Kindlon
Illustrated by Antonio Fuso
Lettered by Jim Campbell
Downtown Honolulu is a sniper alley, and Saheer runs it better than anyone.
He’s a local celebrity for transporting medicine and information across a no-man’s land occupied by militias and street gangs. But what people say about you is never the full story, and when the cheers die out Saheer is left with just his anxieties… and his secrets.
The first of a five-issue series that keeps its foot pressed on your adrenal gland.
From Patrick Kindlon (We Can Never Go Home, There’s Nothing There, S.H.I.E.L.D.: Quake) and illustrator Antonio Fuso (James Bond), Survival Fetish is a pulse-pounding thrill-ride that mixes political intrigue with deep characters and high-octane action.
“Survival Fetish” #1, both in terms of art and story, is sparse. It takes place in a Honolulu that has turned into a gang-controlled nightmare. From every one of the skyscrapers in the city, there are snipers, waiting for any kind of movement to fire. Saheer runs packages through the city, and that’s just about all you need to know.
The action picks up right at the beginning of this first issue. The work done here by Antonio Fuso is an interesting mix of both detailed and abstract. The book is black and white, which gives a clean simplicity to the art. While Saheer parkours across the rooftops of the city, the skylines and the buildings around him are detailed and precise, while Saheer himself is drawn with a relatively few number of lines, mostly colored in shadow.
There are a number of images in this first sequence of running, where Saheer is jumping from rooftop to rooftop and dodging bullets where the art work just astounded me. In these running sequences, Fuso uses a number of tall, long panels to stress the verticality of the city that Saheer is running through. The opening scene where he moves through the city is the most exciting part of the book, and the art does a great job conveying that.
Similarly, the internal monologue Saheer has running through his head during this sequence does a good job conveying who he is as a character, what he feels as he’s running, without feeling trite in the way that many first issue monologues do. There is some really good work done with the pacing of the monologue and the art, where I don’t want to go into too many specifics as it would spoil the effect. But, suffice to say, Patrick Kindlon is able to write an internal monologue for this character that feels like it belongs. Too often in first issues like this, they can feel like an action scene with text boxes just pasted on top of it, not really working in concert. Here, for this opening sequence, everything comes together in a way that is extremely satisfying.
The rest of the issue, after Saheer’s run through the city, involves him interacting with other characters in a hospital. It isn’t quite as exciting as this first sequence, but it does a lot of good work setting up what the rest of the series will be going forward. While for the most part Saheer only runs very small packages. Drugs for this hospital, other very tiny things people will pay him to move, there is a baby that is in serious need of medical attention that it cannot get from the hospital it is in now.
Fuso is able to keep the back half of the issue, which consists mostly of walking and talking, from being boring. While there are a few more bits of action in the back half of this issue, and one sex scene that gets cut short, it is mostly just characters talking to one another. Fuso is able to frame these conversations in a way that keeps them exciting. As I said before, his characters are not the most detailed in the world. Their faces are made up of relatively few lines, but Fuso is able to get a lot of work out of those lines. Characters are expressive, framing and body language are all well done.Continued below
Kindlon’s dialogue takes these characters the extra step to bringing them to life. Saheer comes off as the cocky, but generally well-meaning guy that he is. Noe, the daughter of the people who run the clinic he is bringing supplies to, feels brooding and angry, but in a way that makes sense. The connection between the two of them feels genuine, in a really wonderful way.
Even the lettering, usually an art that when best done is almost invisible, is worth mentioning. Jim Campbell only has three colors of text box to work with in the color pattern of the story. But these three colors are used in such a way that the characters that do have to speak while their off panel, or have their own internal thoughts, never become confusing. It’s something that is simple, but is pulled off elegantly, much like every other aspect of “Survival Fetish” #1.
“Survival Fetish” #1 does a good job of pulling the reader into it’s story, making you interested in what is to come. It keeps things relatively light, not weighing the reader down with unnecessary details, just giving you enough to go on that you want to see what happens next. The art, similarly, is not the most detailed in the world, but “Survival Fetish” is all the better for it. This is a fun, exciting debut issue, and I’m excited to see the story as it continues on from here.
Final Verdict: 8.7 – “Survival Fetish” #1 is the exciting, sparse, elegant debut issue.