THIS REVIEW OF ‘SURVIVAL FETISH’ #5 IS SPOILER-FREE.

'Survival Fetish' #5
Cover to ‘Survival Fetish’ #5. Art by Antonio Fuso/Black Mask Studios

by Mickey Rivera. When we first meet Survival Fetish’s protagonist, Saheer, he has two main concerns: getting paid, and not getting shot. His home is an alternate reality Honolulu that’s in the throes of an unexplained civil war divided between two dissonant modes of existence. On the ground: gangs, grifters, and a population of citizens trying to keep their heads down and get by. In the air: skyscrapers occupied by rival militias, armed with everything from sniper rifles to RPGs, shooting at each other and at whatever else strikes their fancy.

Saheer is a runner, someone who is paid by virtually anyone to deliver virtually anything. This is a high-paying and crucial service in a place where popping your head out the window is likely to land you in a sniper’s crosshairs. Saheer takes pride in his agility, in maintaining a body nimble enough to run between bullets and a spirit cognitively agile enough to make sense of the fractured world around him. Both skills are put to the test when a community leader, someone who he respects (and whose daughter he happens to be sleeping with), hires him to deliver a sick infant past the towers to a life-saving hospital.

Patrick Kindlon’s writing has been phenomenal throughout the past issues, but Survival Fetish #5 is something special. Kindlon knows how a story should hit you when it’s over. Saheer’s friends, the only family he seems to have, are fleshed out with compelling and smart dialogue. He’s never corny, never uses a one-liner to play at being a bad-ass. Kindlon’s characters feels honest. Saheer’s steady analytical narration provides the emotional and moral perspective from which we view this war-torn Honolulu. Themes of personal ability, hero-worship, and adequacy are lucidly discussed via captions.

Saheer poses hypotheticals and ruminates on himself and the world around him. The psychos in the towers believe in nothing. Their factions change names on a regular basis. Though they believe that the people living below give a shit who wins, the fact is they couldn’t care less. Like Saheer, the people of Honolulu simply want a life without the constant fear of death. As someone who makes a living by flying in between and past the same violence that is holding them down, the community has rallied behind him as a symbol of survival and hope—someone who’s adapted to the new order and has even made a small profit on it. Saheer himself, however, doesn’t see himself the same way. Every day he goes out he’s sure it will be his last. This dissonance between his internal doubts and the public’s perception of him provides a huge stretch of Survival Fetish’s emotional backbone.

This final issue is the perfect wrap for both these themes and the story in general, despite the fact that the big questions about the larger world of Survival Fetish are left a mystery. Kindlon keeps the focus on Saheer’s internal conflicts and the life-or-death situations they’ve led him to. Much like with the unexplained calamity of Children of Men, the mysterious war in which Survival Fetish take place is less a plot point than it is an atmosphere, serving to highlight the lives of those living through it and strengthening the themes of the book. After all, in a conflict where the combatants have stopped caring about what they’re fighting for, what’s the point of figuring out how it all started?

All that matters is that people are dying. Each armed faction, so carefully individualized by the murderous psychos who run them, amounts to not much more than another group of assholes with guns who are creating the oppressive nightmare in which Saheer and his friends must survive. There’s not an ounce of political favoritism in him. His main motivators are safety and survival, and the militant ideologues tearing his city apart are the only things keeping him from them.

Kindlon could not have picked a more capable hand to visualize this meditative war-fable than Antonio Fuso. His ink carves out heavy figures and cityscapes that match the book’s anxious urban tropes. Each edge feels like a wall; each action sequence is a seismic disruption in the maze that traps these characters. This issue’s panel rhythm is especially frantic. Fuso and Kindlon switch from formal to irregular, using gutter space and panel size to denote movement and time as Saheer races past hostile militia forces towards a better, bullshit-free life.

Survival Fetish #5 ends hard. However it might leave you feeling when it’s over, there’s no doubt you’ll come away thinking there was no better ending to tie together all the blood and doubt that came before its finale—not if Kindlon and Fuso wanted to leave a lasting impression. And they did. They do.

Black Mask Studios / $3.99

Created by Patrick Kindlon and Antonio Fuso.

Written by Patrick Kindlon.

Art by Antonio Fuso.

Lettered by Jim Campbell.

9.5 out of 10

Read our review of ‘Survival Fetish’ #1 here.

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