Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The Saviors Review (James Robinson, J. Bone)

Tomas is a small town guy happy with his small town life, pumping gas, smoking jays. Then one day he sees an alien posing as a human and his whole world changes. It’s Stoners vs Aliens in The Saviors! 

James Robinson and J. Bone’s comic has a fun conceit that’s let down by poor storytelling. Like the aliens’ reactions to Tomas seeing them – this is a dude who’s perpetually high and no-one else saw what he did, so, plausible deniability? Absolutely, AND he was already doubting what he’d seen anyway! But trying to kill him, totally validating his far-out theory, was so dumb! It was immensely contrived, especially as there wouldn’t be a story without this decision. 

The action moves along swiftly and smoothly thanks to J. Bone’s keen animator-esque sensibilities. That is until Tomas meets up with the small band of alien resistance fighters and then the pages are covered in nothing but exposition balloons, uninteresting, overwritten and adding little, that slams the brakes on the narrative. And we know that smoking weed makes you see through the aliens’ disguises but no-one besides Tomas tokes up so how do the others see the aliens again? Plot-hoooole! 

The aliens are also indestructible who can seemingly shapeshift into anything, regardless of size – they’re giant dragons one minute, ordinary-size humans the next – but some McGuffin gun can magically defeat them thanks to weed somehow? It’s so poorly explained and still more contrived. Characters seemingly die and then are arbitrarily brought back. Maybe Robinson was going for cornball B-movie-type schlock but it’s still just as hard to give a fig when the storytelling choices are “Eh, (shrug) whatevs!” It doesn’t help that I was kinda on the side of the aliens once their purpose for being here was revealed! 

The book ends so abruptly too. It’s literally, “Hey this thing worked against this one alien!” – TO BE CONTINUED! Huh – wha… that’s it? And that was in 2014 – no new issues have appeared since, largely because the original run didn’t sell well, so it’s an awful ending.

I loved J. Bone’s art which is very like the late Darwyn Cooke’s style - very angular lines, cartoony, and similar to Batman: The Brave and the Bold show - and the minimal colours approach looked very cool too. I think he did a helluva job adapting Robinson’s unwieldy script the way that he did. Unfortunately The Saviors is all sizzle and no steak. Despite the amusing concept and great art, it’s an unsatisfying read from an overrated writer (Robinson’s one great book remains, for me, last year’s Airboy) – comics often sell poorly because readers can tell the quality isn’t there and that’s definitely the case with The Saviors.

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