Covert Vampiric Operations is the organisation that keeps America safe from supernatural threats, and contributing considerably to their unquestionable efficiency is that they’re staffed with vampires. We’re introduced to the major players over a fifty page opening story: Britt the former glamour model, Cross the dedicated soldier, and the gung-ho and impulsive Bools are the main cast, overseen by the manipulative Overmars, unconcerned about what he does as long as he gets his way. Demons and zombies, referred to as “platelickers”, also form part of the mix, all of them kept well separate from humanity at large.

Alex Garner and Mindy Lee provide the introductory story, but it takes Jeff Mariotte and Gabriel Hernandez to suggest CVO is anything more than formula. They use the same elements as the first story, but twist them around, make them more interesting by adding a greater depth and a greater air of mystery. Hernandez is an equal partner in this, his contribution a visual chocolate box of military precision, arcane machinery and uniformed chic. Every time he switches scene something vastly different is required, and whether it’s soldiers attacking a well defended base or fiends knocking back wine in a palace, Hernandez’s sketchy figures and well chosen colours make the scene convincing.

Mariotte doesn’t provide much in the way of additional character depth, but his plot is more interesting. The CVO deal with arcane weaponry, their success ultimately dependent on it, yet somehow this is being subverted. All roads seem to lead to Russia. The set-up is well worked, dragging the CVO agents from one location to the next as they piece together portions of the problem, but unfortunately the pay-off is insipid, the plot proving a giant balloon that’s continually inflated only to burst without purpose. A few extra pages could have made this second story something worthwhile instead. It didn’t damage the franchise, however, and CVO returns with Rogue State.