J.M. DeMatteis has always been an excellent writer at odds with the conventions of his genre. In superhero comics, it is commonly accepted that might makes right, and a fist to the jaw solves all problems, yet his body of work reveals a thoughtful, philosophical writer with a conviction to loftier ideals. Now, deep into his comics writing career, The Life and Times of Savior 28 may well be J.M. DeMatteis’s last word on superheroes.
Originally conceived over twenty years ago as a Captain America Story, The Life and Times of Savior 28 shows what happens when a longtime patriotic superhero decides to denounce his previous life and embrace pacifism. Savior 28 is assassinated early in the story (that’s not really a spoiler-it’s shown on the cover of issue #1), and the rest of the story is narrated by Savior 28’s former sidekick, Dennis McNulty, now an old man. Through flashbacks and anecdotes, we see the lies, legends, and half-truths that make up the legend of Savior 28, and that led to his fall. We see how his own ego and grandiosity put him on a collision course with the U.S. government, his fellow superheroes, and finally with the man who was like a son to him. We see him branded a traitor, we see him die, and we see a quiet redemption in the aftermath.
Mike Cavallaro is the artist for The Life and Times of Savior 28, and he proved to be an excellent choice. His style is similar to Michael Avon Oeming, and reminiscent of classic Marvel artists like Sal Buscema or Ron Frenz, which makes this look that much more like the last issues of a long-running “real” superhero series.
The Life and Times of Savior 28 is a story about how lofty dreams too often fall before harsh reality, and how we build up our heroes only to tear them down. It is also a story that couldn't have possibly been as good with Captain America, and one that is that much better for having formed for a few extra years. It is really, really good, and you should check it out.
The Life and Times of Savior 28 is currently available in single issues numbered 1 through 5. The collected trade paperback will be available in December and is available to order from IDW publishing in the October 2009 PREVIEWS, page 267 (ISBN: 978-1-60010-576-0).