Wednesday, 16 May 2012

DC Universe Presents #9 review

After 16 years apart, a father and daughter are reunited. Sounds touching, but when the father is immortal villain Vandal Savage and the daughter is FBI agent Kass Sage, expect sparks to fly. And they do, as an electrically powered inmate interrupts their meeting at Belle Reve prison.

Kass is after insight into a serial killer who has copied her father's methods and kidnapped a senator's daughter. And Vandal gives her something. But if she wants more help, art connoisseur Vandal says he needs to see the scenes of the earlier crimes.

And of course, we're all thinking Silence of the Lambs, with Vandal cast as Hannibal Lecter and Kass as Clarice Starling. But the set-up is just that - set-up. We're at the beginning of the journey here, as we're introduced to the present day version of the barbarian from Demon Knights, and one of his children. This isn't the New 52 version of Scandal Savage from the much-missed Secret Six book; all Kass has in common with Scandal is her father. Where Scandal is, at best and being very generous, an anti-hero, Kass is on the side of the angels. And while the former inherited something of her father's incredible constitution and favours blades in combat, Kass relies on training and sidearm. She hates what her father did to his victims, what he did to her mother, but if it'll help someone, she's going to face him.

And Kass certainly doesn't believe Vandal Savage is an immortal, his killings sacrifices to forgotten gods.

Writer James Robinson gives Vandal a touch of the Jack Knights, with his love of art and penchant for vintage pornography. That's it, though - I wouldn't be at all surprised were he not wanting to get Kass alone so he could eat her organs or somesuch horror. Robinson's Vandal is a compelling fellow, and Kass may well be a match for him ... certainly she's not afraid of the man, even though she must know the father she loved is long gone. There's a satisfying balance of smart talk and well-worked action in this first of a three-parter, and it grips from beginning to end.

Robinson's partner in crime is Bernard Chang, whose work never fails to engage with stories in interesting ways. His Vandal is the classic version, somewhere between caveman and nobleman, while Kass is pretty without coming from Central Casting; there's a strength in her eyes, the way she holds herself. The action sequence blazes across the pages, while the quieter moments command the attention. And Chang is well served by his colourist, one Bernard Chang. There's sharp lettering, too, from Steve Wands.

The cover is by Ryan Sook, and is a typically effective composition, even while Kass looks like a man in drag.

If you're looking for a DC comic with a different flavour, a cerebral superhero thriller, give this issue a try.

4 comments:

  1. Damn it, I should have bought this run instead of Challengers of the Unknown. It's too late for me to order this since my comic book shop only allows 2 months advance orders and clearly it's too late.

    Oh well, guess I'll have to wait two months until National Comics to get my short comic story fix.

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    1. I'm very much looking forward to National Comics. I'm holding out for the long-awaited return of Roy Raymond, TV Detective!

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  2. It wasn't bad at all, but this first book was so damned derivative of Silence Of The Lambs that I'm stunned that Robinson didn't have Savage asking for Chianti and fava beans...

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    1. I think he's due on the Comic Vine podcast this weekend, so it'll be interesting if he addresses this. Which I expect he will!

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