ishmaelbbc's Retrovirus #1 - HC review

What's in a Savage?

The star rating does not entirely reflect my impression of this comic book. In some ways I liked it a lot, in other I despised it. It's a strange mixture.

Palmiotti and Gray are generally good storytellers. They know their way around dialogue and plots, are entertaining and funny without being dumb. This is all evident in this book. The story is suspenseful and has a nice few twists. So, on a purely entertainment basis, this is solid work.

The art is good and does what it needs to do. There are some weird facial expressions, though, especially Conri in the last panel on the plane, which not only doesn't fit to the dialogue but just looks like he's having a seizure.

BUT 1

What about the ending? This has to be one of the weirdest endings ever. It's like a satire of a happy ending. Nothing is resolved, it just ends happily. The last two pages have nothing to do with the plot of the book, they don't really give any clue what has happened with the characters or what will happen besides the very obvious romantic relationship/family thing. Not even a clever final dialogue or sentence or anything.

BUT 2

Female stereotyping - cheesecake - whatever. It's nice to see our hero Zoe get at some old creeps who just see her as an attractive female. It's almost clever and shows that she is more than that. And I don't mind that she uses her body and sexuality to achieve something because she mostly stays in a dominant position. But why do we have to gaze at her body in exactly the same way the old professors in the beginning did? When Zoe is watched by Conri, we see her half-naked from five different angles. Then we see her butt-naked, followed by five more shots of her in underwear. Somehow, her claims of being creeped out by being watched feel hollow. And 25% of the action/dialogue seems to center on Zoe's boobs. No, Amanda Conner doing a (unfortunately slightly boring) cover does not even that out.

BUT 3

The gore. Yes, it's supposed to be gory. It's supposed to be some of the appeal of the book. But it's just too much. It just gets boring after a while. There are about 15 pages that show nothing but Neanderthals tearing people or animals apart with panels drenched in blood and guts. Imagine the script saying at least 15 times 'Someone gets ripped to pieces by a Neanderthal - bloody!'

BUT 4

The previous point leads to my last point. Neanderthals are our ancestors. They are basically us. They've lived for a great part like people lived for thousands of years afterwards. Looking at their lifestyle actually can teach us something about problems in our modern culture. There is no reason to assume they were 'savages', in the meaning of blood-thirsty, violent, impulsive, irrational. They seem like monsters here, with no reason for them to ever be alive. Which they wouldn't. A species that behaved as they do in this book would never survive for long. So why reinforce the old stereotype of the primitive savages? Why not at least say at one point that the virus makes them violent and rabid (instead of infertile which in the end had no relevance to the plot)? No animal (including any kind of human) ever thrived on simply killing everything in sight. It would have been so easy to give a reason for this behavior and it bugs me immensely that there was none.

So, there you have it. An entertaining but inherently flawed book. Creator-owned - yeah! Kickstarter - yeah! But that does not guarantee that it is good.

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