Wednesday, 29 August 2012

‘Savage: The Guv’nor’ – Pat Mills, Patrick Goddard (Rebellion)

I should have reviewed this days ago… I probably would have done as well if ‘The Guv’nor’ hadn’t left me with so many things that I wanted to think about first. More on that in a bit.
Everything gets reviewed here eventually though (some books just have to wait a little longer for their turn…) and ‘The Guv’nor’ was no different. I had a great time reading this book and, now I’ve finally got my thoughts together, I can tell you just what I thought. First though, here’s some blurb…

In 1999, Britain was successfully invaded by the Volgs. When London lorry driver Bill Savage learnt that his family had been killed by the Volgs, he became a one-man war machine - a persistant thorn in the side of the occupying army. Having adopted the identity of his dead brother, Savage operates out of a bombed-out london, leading the resistance against his hated enemy. Now, business brain Howard Quartz - the CEO of Ro-Busters - has launched an attack on the Volgan forces with his Mark-One War Droids, but the Volgs have some technological tricks of their own, including a functional teleportation device and a powerful beast with a taste for human flesh....

It’s a rare comic book that I don’t just tear through quickly, on the first read, and then go back for another go. Even favourites of mine, like ‘The Goon’ or ‘Conan’, don’t have that much time spent on them for that first read. I’m just so eager to get going that I’ve finished reading before I even realise that I’ve started. This wasn’t the case with ‘The Guv’nor’ though, a book that I really got into and found that I was really taking my time over the read; I didn’t actually want it to finish at all.

This was a little odd as ‘The Guv’nor’ has a very episodic feel to it with a new danger, or mission, routinely being dealt with by Savage and his gang; if it’s bit dealt with in one story then it’s pretty much guaranteed to be resolved in the next one. You can understand this approach, given that the whole book has been collected from individual issues of 2000AD, but I’ve never been a fan of it personally. What works in a comic doesn’t really work when you essentially repeat the same story over and over again in a larger book. Hints at a larger arc save the day this time round but the flow of the plot was still a little too repetitive for my tastes.

There is a lot to recommend ‘The Guv’nor’ though, not least how unrelentingly grim and nasty this book is. If there wasn’t such a clear line drawn between the invaders and the resistance you would be hard pressed to see who the heroes were. It’s a grim life in ‘Volgan Britain’ and Savage’s crew is prepared to do whatever it takes to restore freedom. This is the cue for some nasty stuff to take place and you can’t help but wonder if Savage oversteps the mark more often than not. Is he a freedom fighter or a terrorist? ‘The Guv’nor’ is quite a thoughtful piece in that regard as well as being a series of explosions and armed pursuit.

The book is also a lot of fun to read with just enough sci-fi elements to freshen up the bleak backdrop, we’re talking teleportation and robot soldiers here. The latter in particular were also interesting to follow not only for the real life parallels drawn but how they tighten lines of continuity across 2000AD as a whole. It may be a reboot (I think) but I love detail like that.

‘The Guv’nor’ benefits from having the same artist running the show throughout, Goddard’s clean style complements the story and I didn’t have to worry about the introduction of a new artist disrupting things halfway through. I didn’t realise that Charlie Adlard was the artist, for ‘Savage’ prior to Goddard; I wouldn’t have minded seeing how his work matched up to the plot (I reckon he would have been a good fit)…

While ‘The Guv’nor’ does fall foul of repetitive plotting (which I think was unavoidable to be fair) it makes up for this in a number of other ways. I’m glad I picked it up and can see myself reading more, no doubt about it.

Eight and a Half out of Ten

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