By Leroy Douresseaux
September 1, 2009 - 08:19
|The Life and Times of Savior 28 #1 cover image.|
I’ve read several web interviews that writer J.M. DeMatteis gave as part of the press roll out for his now-completed IDW miniseries, The Life and Times of Savior 28. If I’ve interpreted his words correctly, Savior 28 seems to have developed out of DeMatteis’ desire to examine how fruitless the use of violence can be in solving conflict, in general and specifically in superhero comic books.
The focus of The Life and Times of Savior 28 #1 is the titular superhero, a man who may be or may not be named James Smith, but is certainly Savior 28. Why the name Savior 28? Smith was the 28th experimental test subject; only one other survived, #13, who went on to become Savior 28’s arch-nemesis.
Although Savior 28/James Smith is the focus of the story, the narrator is Dennis McNulty, who as a 15-year-old boy became Savior 28’s sidekick, The Daring Disciple. McNulty recounts the beginning and end of Savior 28, while telling some of what happened in between, and also offering a little info on Smith’s life before he became Savior 28.
The Life and Times of Savior 28 is a post-modern superhero comic book – as in post-modern deconstruction like Watchmen (rather than post-modern grim like Batman: The Dark Knight Returns). I’m not necessarily for or against such deconstructionist takes on superheroes. Superhero comics book are escapist fantasy; using them as metaphors or allegories can be interesting. Literalizing them, however, is entirely another thing; that’s when they can start to seem ridiculous.
As a narrative, The Life and Times of Savior 28 seems to be fiction with the purpose of commenting on recent politics, as well as being (perhaps) a parable about the destructive nature of answering violence with ever increasing violence. As for the first issue, well, I was huge fan of DeMatteis because of comic books like Moonshadow and Dr. Strange: Into Shamballa (Marvel Graphic Novel #23). Here, I enjoyed how DeMatteis wrote Dennis McNulty’s narration, which gives this comic book the feel of a biographical novel, and sets a nice conspiratorial, dark tone for the narrative. However, this first issue is much too much overview and not enough detail, which keeps this first issue from standing out as something exceptional.