I dig Valiant Comics in every form. Having been a reader and fan during the first iteration in the heady 90s, through the Acclaim purchase and eventual dissolution, and again (with varying degrees of faithfulness) since their reinvention back in the mid-00s.
After hearing some buzz about a creative refresh of the line, I decided to return some attention to Valiant with NINJAK #1 (review coming soon!) and the softcover collection of SAVAGE: THE WILD, by Max Bemis and Nathan Stockman. This volume collects the 4-issue series from this year and just so you know, there is a previous miniseries from 2017 from B. Clay Moore and Clayton Henry.
I'm a Tarzan guy since I was a kid, so a Tarzan-analogue original character in the Valiant universe is something I can happily get behind! The cover of the collection tells me right off what tone they’re going for - laughs, balls-out action, and kaiju! Having binged my way through all of Legendary Films’ MonsterVerse during the dark days of quarantine, I am doubly down!
Even having not read the first volume, it wasn’t hard to piece together… Savage is the brand name for Kevin Sauvage, heir to aristocracy who was lost for years as a child, raised in another dimension to super-heroic savagery. This is all written with tongue planted well in cheek, almost but not quite in that earnest/innocent manga style where this kind of situation plays out charmingly. Not that I am expert in manga, but SAVAGE does seem to be thoroughly manga-influenced in both story and art.
We start with a bunch of scene-setting, letting us know where Kevin is right now (huge celebrity, bored to tears) while also giving us the basic premise in flashback. He finds the main plot hook immediately by stumbling onto a couple of giant monsters (he calls them “geckos”, which I adore) and starts duking it out with spectacular visuals. Yes, this book knows why it’s at the party and it plans to be invited back! Stockman simply has no shame as shows off in an awesome display of massive monster mayhem and Bemis takes Savage through an escalating series of absurd acts of violence.
The story moves on at a rapid pace, introducing the deliciously Silver Age-seeming Project Bizarre, with mustache-twirling Professor Hanley Nealon and his sexy-nerdy young assistant, Mae. Many pages of things equal parts wonderful and ridiculous transpire. Could I interest you in Savage demonstrating many creative uses for animal bones? How about sexy-nerdy Mae in a jumpsuit, riding a genetically-engineered winged T-Rex? And am I the only one who wants that sick palm tree muscle shirt?
The story ends on a last-page cliffhanger and I found this didn’t bother me - besides furthering my optimism for future volumes, it felt in keeping with the book’s overall air of joyful, caffeinated madness. Bemis and Stockman are inviting you to share in their boisterous good time, and that’s good comics!
Plenty of Pulp, by Max Cage, for Wednesday Pull List