LIFE AND TIMES OF SAVIOR 28 #5
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It’s obvious why the Big Two comics companies would never publish this comic. Its central premise — that a superhero might realize that punching people isn’t the way to solve problems — completely undermines the foundation upon which superhero comics are built. And, as a Captain America fan, I’m glad that Marvel didn’t allow Steve Rogers to go down this path so long ago. Not only would I have been disheartened to see my hero assassinated after turning to peace, but the story also wouldn’t have been nearly so effective with such a flawless hero as Cap.
Savior 28, on the other hand, is far from perfect. He’s an alcoholic and an egotist, and the story makes no claims otherwise. The point of view here is essential — through the eyes of 28′s former sidekick, we’re able to see the protagonist as both a hero and as a man, with all of his flaws as visible as the reasons the world would worship him. And though Savior 28 may see the world in black and white terms, this story, largely as a result of its hero’s complexity, finds its heart in the ambiguities and shades of grey of superheroic — or even normally heroic — action.
This story is undoubtedly political, and that may grate on some. DeMatteis doesn’t hide his politics, or the story’s relation to real world events — Bush, Obama, 9/11, and various other real-world references are part of the comic. But it allows its hero to make mistakes, it allows for complex viewpoints, and, perhaps most importantly of all, its overall message is one of kindness and love for one’s fellow man — a moral no one could disagree with. It’s the execution that’s debated, and that’s something that’s more than up for debate.
I encourage anyone interested in superhero comics to give this series a chance. This last issue is a bit rushed, largely due to the condensing of the story from 6 issues to 5. The story as a whole, however, stands tall as an analysis of the superhero genre and the world that created it, following in the hard-to-fill shoes of Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns, but with more of DeMatteis’ trademark hopefulness than either of those two texts could bear to contain. And Mike Cavallaro’s art, which is clear and bright and absolutely perfect for the story, is the icing on top.
On a final note, I encourage anyone who enjoyed this series to check out DeMatteis’ 1980s run on Captain America (issues 267 to 300). As I mentioned, Steve Rogers is a very different hero than Savior 28, but it’s the series that gave DeMatteis the initial ideas for this mini, and it’s worth checking out the seeds. Beyond that, DeMatteis wrote some of the best Steve Rogers characterization and stories I’ve ever read, and anyone who’s a fan of the character would be a fool not to check it out.
Art: 5 - Excellent