Thursday, May 17, 2012

DC Universe Presents #9

Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Bernard Chang
Company: DC Comics

While I know there was a lot of love for the Paul Jenkins penned Deadman story that launched the DC Universe Presents title, for me, the book never really revved up to be anything but bland. Deadman just isn't the guy that can carry a whole story. I love him, don't get me wrong, but a full six issues is a bit much. The same can be said for Vandal Savage. The difference, however, is really in the writing.

James Robinson, the man behind things such as JSA: Golden Age and Starman and Superman. He's a talented writer. Sure, he's had his flops and moments where he's made some questionable calls, but that's something that can be done with most writers. With
Robinson, give him a small cast of characters and a focus on personal stories and the chances of getting something that will be worth reading are fairly high.

The Savage story that is launched here mirrors Silence of the Lambs in many ways: There's a run of brutal kidnappings and murders, an FBI Profiler is on the killer's trail, and a man who's one of the worlds worst serial killers is behind bars and offers his help. It isn't flagrant or anything, but the parallels can't be missed. The cool thing about it is that this is the DCU and Robinson gets to introduce us to these characters and put them all in a different light. His Vandal Savage is a brute of a man, but he's cunning and smart. He's likable even though he's an evil son of a bitch, which is a hard thing to do. The other main character, Savage's daughter, Kass Sage is almost the complete opposite of Clarice Starling. She's confident, violent, and in control of the situations that she finds herself in. She's a lot like she was before the New 52 came around when she ran the Secret Six, but without the blades attached to her wrists.

The tension that Robinson is able to eek out as all of these elements drum and grind like the pistons in a classic car is great. Simple scenes become something more and for an issue that boasts a lot of talking between characters, there is no down time whatsoever. There are also just some great concepts at work, especially in the way that Vandal Savage's backstory is spun.

Chang's art is a bit hit and miss for me. He handled the Deadman story from the first arc and it too had this problem for me. His handle on anatomy is fine and I love the hulking nature of our villain. Still, there's an almost too bright feel to the whole thing that butts heads with the more sinister and suspenseful oriented genre that the book is dealing with. There's also a bit of stiffness in some of the work, though the action sequence towards the end doesn't fall into that category at all.

All in all, this one was a basket full of surprises that made my inner serial killer do the dance of joy. You don't get many thrillers in comics, and I foresee this three issue mini being a rare gem.

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