Monday, June 25, 2012


STORY: James Robinson
ART: Bernard Chang

DC Universe Presents is a great series. While I didn't find "Challengers of the Unknown" particularly engaging, both "Deadman" and now "Savage" have been fantastic arcs that are highlighting less popular characters while simultaneously adding bricks to the 'New 52' universe and how it operates. And though Vandal Savage has been a mainstay in Demon Knights - a title I highly recommend - there's not a whole lot of character development for him in a time period where Savage was little more than a barbarian. "Savage" is giving readers a better look into the immortal man, who he was throughout the ages, and how his actions in the past have repercussions in the current day.

James Robinson has employed the 'Hannibal Lecter' approach to this story; Kassidy Sage, Savage's daughter and police office, has come to her father seeking help involving a serial killer mimicking Savage's murders years, decades, and centuries before. While Kass doesn't believe her father's to be trusted (or that he's immortal), she does believe that he can be useful in the case. It's a pretty common hypocrisy when police work with criminals like this - the law doesn't actually trust the criminal, so they only listen selectively, to what they believe actually makes sense. But hey, I'm no police officer.

While normally I find father-daughter conflicts uninteresting, the dynamic between Kassidy and Savage is fantastic. Robinson is really taking his time when it comes to their relationship, which is hard to do with only three issues in the "Savage" arc. Nonetheless, Savage is well written as a cold-blooded killer than just so happens to care for his family - centuries of life experience have shown Savage that some things are more important than others, and while he likes to mess around with Kass' head, he really does love his daughter and wants the best for her. It's not out of the ordinary, just out of character for Savage who, before the 'New 52' relaunch, was much more vicious. I mean, Scandal Savage was a super-villain from her first appearance!

I've mentioned before, in other reviews, how much I appreciate a dose of realism in comic books. That's not to say I prefer realism over innovation, just that including small bits of realism to ground a story can have immense effect on the overall appeal of the narrative. Seeing civilians tweeting and sharing pictures of an alien invader makes for a much more relatable setting than people using old cell phones and reading newspapers on the street. "Savage" only really employs 'sci-fi' or 'fantastical' elements with the villain, some white-skinned, red-cloaked mystery man who uses his own pattern of killing against Kass' squad to use them in his sacrifice, much like Savage did all those years ago.

After employing his own methods to the crime scene, Savage leads Kass and her team to the killer's location. Kass immediately has her father removed from the scene and taken back to the transport. On the way, Savage realizes he was wrong and that the killer was after the police, not the original victim. Though he tries to reason with his escorts, the officers don't believe Savage and don't radio back to Kass with the new information. One by one, Kass' squad is picked off while Savage attacks his escorts while on a plane mid-flight, then jumps back into the woods to save his daughter. The entire scene is excellently written by Robinson, and the artwork by Bernard Chang really drives the emotion. Chang's cuts between Kass' team and Savage are perfect and the violence is neither too gory or underdeveloped.

This second part of "Savage" would be hard to read as a stand-alone issue, seeing as elements from DC Universe Presents #9 come into play throughout the issue, and the ramifications of this month's events will be concluded next month. Then again, I guess the same could be said about most any comic book series, but in this case, it would be like watching The Godfather, Part II without having seen The Godfather or knowing anything about it. I'm sure it would be enjoyable, but you wouldn't have a frame of reference for these characters or their motivations.


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