The Life and Times of Savior 28 #5
Written by J.M. DeMatteis
Art by Mike Cavallaro
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by Russ Burlingame
Along with Irredeemable from Boom! Studios, IDW’s The Life and Times of Savior 28 has infused fresh wonder into the superhero comics landscape over the past year, turning the conventions of the genre on themselves in order to create clever, compelling, character-driven stories that stoke the imagination while simultaneously provoking the reader to think about important issues both fictional and not.
The story of Savior 28 and his Daring Disciple draws to a close with the release of this week’s fifth issue, and while there are some obvious and predictable moments in the issue (let’s face it -- there’s one page that we’ve been building to since page one), there are also a few nice surprises along the way. Savior 28 is what we need in our superheroes—in spite of the kind of bad press that would make Peter Parker blush, he inspires everyday people, and in spite of his death (way back in the first issue, so don’t worry folks, I’m not spoiling anything here) he continues, in a way that I can’t imagine most mainstream superheroes being able to compete with, to effect positive change in the world he left behind.
The Life and Times of Savior 28 was a product of J.M. DeMatteis’ years on Captain America, one of the only characters owned by the big two comics publishers for whom this story might actually have worked. But the optimism—the positive energy and the hope that S avior 28 inspires in not only his world, but in the readers of DeMatteis and Cavallaro’s comic—is a product of that time, too. In the years following The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and the successive deaths or maimings of dozens of heroes and villains (including virtually every one you’d ever want to read about on an ongoing basis), this final issue of The Life and Times of Savior 28 almost feels out of place—as though DeMatteis and his characters hadn’t learned anything in the intervening years. But to look at the story that way would be all wrong. In fact, DeMatteis, and Savior 28’s alter ego James Smith, have a great deal to teach us about not giving into the cynical part of superhero comics that have left many readers feeling burned and have darkened the souls and the outlooks of dozens of the most noble and heroic characters in popular fiction.
Ultimately, this comic feels like the exact opposite of James Robinson’s Justice League: Cry for Justice. <a href=http://blog.newsarama.com/2009/09/09/in-case-you-missed-em/>While in the Robinson story</a>, familiar heroes are dubiously heroic and rationalizing their behavior with obtuse references to “justice,” here everyone -- from Savior 28, to his killer, to the “villains” who stood against (and later with) -- James Smith, in his quest for global peace and justice, is doing what they honestly believe to be the right thing. Whose approach works better, and to what extent those who believe incorrectly can be held accountable for their misguided attempts at heroism, are the enduring questions of The Life and Times of Savior 28 in the same way that those questions were the basis for a lot of the discussion surrounding Irredeemable, and author Mark Waid’s brilliant Kingdom Come. These are sensibilities that endure in superhero comics in spite of efforts, as constant and potentially damaging as weather erosion, to drag the genre into the abattoir of “grim and gritty.”