Savage Tales #1

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Savage Tales #1

From the looks of the cover, my first thought was that Marvel was going to do their version of Heavy Metal magazine with maybe a post-apocalypse bent. But that wasn’t their intent. In fact, when you open up the magazine you are greeted with a title page laid out in 48 point font declaring that this magazine is to carry stories of pulpy violence, and if the reader wants something else, he should look elsewhere. The intro is written in the tone and voice of the pulp writers–“You want philosophy, read Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Proust. They wrote it good.” And while that declared promise is broken right out of the gate with the first story, making one’s goal to give the reader nothing to think about, nothing to ponder in these self-declared stories of “only violence,” may have something to do with this magazine having a run of just 9 issues.

There are 5 stories in this book, each by a different writer and artist. Each one is set in a different violent setting. There’s the Vietnam story,  a western story, a jungle war story, a post-WWII story, and a post-apocalypse/crime-ridden future story.

The first story is a Vietnam war story that eventually spun off into its own comic–The ‘Nam. The story is kind of set up as an introduction to more stories to come, with an introduction of the ragtag group of soldiers, each with his own set of quirky traits.

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It tells the story of a soldier demonstrating true courage, sacrificing his life to save the lives of his friends. The story’s not that interesting, unless this is maybe your first war comic ever. But self sacrifice and its implications is something worth exploring. The story’s not that interesting, but the ending is satisfying. Something that can’t be said for all if theses stories.

The second story, the jungle war story, which takes place in a sort of dystopian future, but not very far in the future, has everything a good story needs, except a good story. This setting and characters are intriguing, a group of rebels in the jungle who use biplanes and other such salvaged technology from the past to fight an organization, presumably a government or corporation of some sort that has access to high tech jets and such.

But I didn’t get enough of that to be hooked. A short story is tricky that way. In a novel, graphic or otherwise, the author has more time to draw the reader in, to make him care about what’s going on before the stakes get raised and the action begins.  A good short story, graphic or otherwise, can do that, but I think it’s more difficult. This jungle story, and really the majority of the stories in this book, don’t set that hook. The investment by the reader is not there. So when the hot rebel girl steals the jet, and in the process of getting away has to ditch the plane and parachute safely back in the jungle, and she does, and the end, I was left thinking a page or four was missing from the story. Because, so what?

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The next story involves the revenge killing of a Nazi officer. It’s one of the better stories in the collection. We get a little twist at the end which is ultimately pretty dumb and turns a story of possible redemption into a story of revenge and the myth of redemptive violence.

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My favorite story in the book is “Blood & Gutz: A Pizza.” It involves a man, Blood, going down the street for a pizza in a post-apocalypse crime-ridden Los Angeles. The story is basically a long set up for a punch line. But the fights are fun, as is Blood’s casual attitude toward all of the danger around him.

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The final story is a Western, one of my favorite genres. But I think this story is the weakest of the lot.  It’s about some soldiers tracking down some deserters.  After some shooting, the deserters are apprehended.  Their punishment, besides being tied for a while out in the sun? Reenlistment in the army. Du-du-dummmm!  Endings are hard I guess.

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So it’s probably clear that I mostly didn’t like this book.  The writing is weak and the stories mostly uninteresting.  Maybe that’s why I only bought one issue.  Or maybe I just bought one because I knew that issue #1 would be the one to be worth hundreds of dollars some day.  But I will say this, this magazine is great to look at.  The art is varied from story to story, with each style perfectly fitting the tone of its piece.  The art for the western story looks westerny and the art for “A Pizza” is fun and scary just like the story.

So Savage Tales is ok.  If you can turn off your brain and just enjoy the stories for their pretty pictures, you’re in good shape. If you want more than that, then just keep walking.  Or find some Schopenhauer or Kierkegaard, or some old Secrets of Haunted House comics.

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