by James Robinson (Writer), J. Bone (Artist)
The Story: It seems to me that James Robinson might take the name ”day of the dead” a bit too literally…
The Review: Having no expectations can be a great thing. When there is no hype or prejudice set against a book, it provides a good chance for the very piece of graphic literature to provide surprises and please the readers with its concepts, its characters and its execution. It’s always a very tough task to let go of expectations, yet it can be achieved through numerous methods.
One of them, it seems, is to not really mind the book’s existence. It might seem a tad harsh, yet I haven’t been wholly impressed yet by James Robinson and his new series The Saviors. While it is decidedly a good idea to base a story around, the world building itself and the various elements haven’t cemented yet to provide for a definitive appreciation on my part. However, it is still a young series and Robinson could very well amplify things in this one. The question is, does he actually achieves this?
What he does well is set up some new ideas as well as presenting new characters. While the focus of the first two issues was decidedly more on Tomas, the writer presents a larger cast here. With each of them being affected by the appearances of lizard men differently and having a different background, Robinson does bring the readers up to speed on their personality and their quirks rather quickly, yet not without efficiency. Some are perhaps a bit stereotypical, yet there is a certain clarity in their motivations and their semi-functionality as a group that does manage to make them interesting enough to make it so there could be development and surprises in the long run.
Still, despite it all, Tomas is still the main protagonist, with a certain focalization on his feelings and reactions brought to the forefront. His personality and his general assessment of the situation driving some of the scenes forward, there is a comprehensible reasoning behind Tomas, yet not one that makes him that interesting or particularly likable in the process. His fears and his desire not to be involved in an underground war against weird lizard people is something that can be easily understood, yet his desire to be protected without him lifting a finger to help in the war effort is something that it more irritating than it is appreciable. While a flawed character makes for a much more interesting lead than a good and utterly perfect one, the character of Tomas Ramirez is perhaps a bit too cowardly to be effectively liked. There’s plenty of room for development and deeper understanding of just who he is, yet so far it’s a bit too soon to properly get attached to a stoner and generally cowardly and detached hero.
Still, the biggest strength of the issue comes at the expense of a calculated weakness, with some scenes that are very dialogue heavy, pushing forth a lot of exposition, characterization all at the same time, creating a heavy atmosphere that simulates an important and messy conversation quite well. Making it so characterization is put on priority by making nothing but small talk happen, Robinson sets up the second part of this issue with a huge surprise, presenting the horror and survival aspect of his book quite well.
The surprise, as effective and exciting as it is, does unfortunately come with a huge downside. The result of said event *spoilers ahead* makes it so a heavy number of characters just introduced in this issue effectively die, making their appearance and a lot of their quirks and moments a bit pointless. While their deaths do adds up to the themes of the book as well as an enhancement of the danger they face, it comes a little bit as cheap. There is no real emotional attachment possible with these characters, making their deaths and their inclusion a bit of an addendum to the story more than they are actual persons. It’s a lot of shock value, it’s effective, yet it just doesn’t seem right to introduce so many players in the game if their only goal is to die so soon. *End of spoilers*.
What’s not a shock and double as effective is J. Bone on the artistic duty. With a great panel layout and a fine sense of details, the artist effectively puts a great number of elements and precision in his pages, making them look lively without sacrificing too much focus on the characters and their reactions. While there is a definite angular and more blocky aspect to J. Bone’s art, it doesn’t come as a weight more as a stylistic choice, with the characters, the background and everything being very clearly drawn with plenty of life put into them.
Where he seems to have a little difficulty, however, is in the very dialogue-heavy pages. While it is no fault of his own, the pages focusing on many the explanations and characters introduction simply aren’t as effective due to the high amount of bubbles overshadowing what the artist does best. They are, however, balanced by the last few pages, which are brutal, fast-paced and simply effective in their portrayal of monstrous violence and horror.
His colorization is also pretty neat, albeit very minimalistic. Focusing on black, white and a third color which sometimes changes in some panels, the artist brings a certain monochromatic design to the issue that works very well. Simulating the heat of Playa Del Angelina quite well with his orange focalization, the artist is still able to simulate light effects as well thanks to some very few occurrences of shading. Allowing for a good balance with his palette, he is also able to provide for a certain amount of contrast between the important elements, which enhance some of the visuals.
The Conclusion: The concept is still interesting, the art is still decidedly lovely, yet the effective but also kind-of cheap surprise and the slower progress of Tomas Ramirez as a main character makes for a good issue that is weighted down by some decidedly big faults. It’s enjoyable, yet definitely flawed in some aspects.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière