Savant Garde #1 (1997)

Savant Garde #1 (March, 1997)
Writer – Barbara Kesel
Pencils – Ryan Odagawa
Inks – Chuck Gibson
Colors – Wendy Fouts
Letters – Amie Grenier w/Rob Robbins
Editor – Rachelle Brissenden
Cover Price: $2.50

I’ve mentioned it before, but during the “heyday” of WildStorm, I was kinda in-and-out.  Would pick up WildC.A.T.S or Grifter or Gen¹³ every now and again… but never endeavored to be “all in”.

I remember being especially intrigued though… around the post-boom period, where the WildStorm “house style” kind of shifted away from the heavily-lined and overly-posed Jim Lee look, to the more cartoony, almost manga-inspired, J. Scott Campbell look.  To me, it felt sort of like a concession that the line was trying to adapt with the times.  The boom period was in the rear-view, and the industry was (relatively speaking) struggling to keep its head above water.  I liked this new look a lot… it felt like, and this is definitely me projecting, but it felt like the creators were having fun.

Thing of it is, no matter how much this era of WildStorm “spoke” to me… I didn’t actually explore it.  Which brings me to today’s book… Savant Garde.  What the hell is Savant Garde?  Well, ya got me… all’s I can tell from the cover is that I recognize… I dunno, one and a half-to-two of the characters on it?  Hell, if not for Majestic (which tipped me off that this is a WildStorm/eventual-DC property) on the cover, this would probably still be sitting in whatever cheap-o bin I found it in!

We open with Savant and “Pancho” (Mabel Bligh) climbing up the side of a steep cliff.  Mabel is providing the narration, during which it’s quite plainly stated that Savant hasn’t been having the best of times of late… and might be in need of “adventure”.  After some sassy back-n-forth, they reach the top, where they find Majestic waiting for them.  According to him, he’d been waiting for twelve hours… which seems, I dunno, like some poor time management from the Majestic One.  Oh well.  Savant and Majestic share a sorta-kinda contentious greeting (I think Savant is his daughter… only she doesn’t know it yet), while Mabel finds herself instantly smitten.

We learn that they’re here to explore some temple ruins and find… something (we’ll eventually find out that they’re looking for a mask).  Turns out though, they aren’t the first ones here.  Indeed, there appears to be a group of builders erecting some sort of structure around the ruins.  This wrankles Savant’s (very tight) shorts.

We shift scenes into the construction site, where we learn that this makeshift building is set to become a “base” of some sort.  A woman wearing a beret (who I’m not sure if we’re supposed to recognize) directs traffic.  Among the “stuff” being moved about is a big ol’ tank of biohazard.

Jumping behind the construction, we meet a giant robot called Met-L, and an… oh boy… a “Nympho-Droid” named Katrina.  And, yeah… a Nympho-Droid is exactly what you think it is (more on that in a bit).  Anyhoo, they’re headed to Lima for some repairs… but are in need of some materials to barter with.  Oddly enough, as they talk to each other, we get the distinct impression that there are two different voices coming from the robot.  More on that later too.

The bot and the droid then attack (and kill) the beret-wearing woman.  Met-L (or one of the voices coming from the robot) asks if it was necessary to actually kill ’em… to which the Nympho asserts that nobody there was an innocent.

Next… something completely different.  Enter Now: the Dank Lair of Lord Defile (ugh).  He’s chatting up an assassin named… Innuendo (double ugh).  They discuss taking out a pair of former WildC.A.T.S (Savant and Majestic).  These are some goofy-looking fools.

Back to the temple ruins, where Mabel is still looking quite “thirsty” for Majestic (that’s a thing that “the kids” say, right?).  Savant is pretty annoyed and suggests they continue on their way to find the bounty.

Little do they know that they’ve been beaten there too!  Katrina and Met-L are already up there salvaging.  Well, Met-L is anyway.  Savant and the Gang arrive as this is going down, and as you might imagine… Savant isn’t pleased (is she ever?).

They fight… Katrina gets involved… it’s a whole big thing for a hot minute.  Savant shames the Nympho-Droid for being… well, the sentient sex-toy that she is, and gets socked in the mush for it…

… then, just one page later, Katrina uses the fact that she’s a sentient sex-toy to attempt and shame Majestic for… “quivering” in her presence.  Though, I feel like she might have mistook “cringing” with “quivering”.  Probably needs her firmware updated (uh, no pun intended).

The whole skirmish wraps up when Mabel holds a gun up to Met-L’s head.  Katrina stands down… and, get this, Savant decides to keep them around for the “unveiling”.  Why in the world would you do this?  Probably to facilitate a subsequent scene where Katrina steals the mask, right?

Well, yeah… more or less that.  But, first… let’s check back in with our man, Innuendo.  He lands in Lima, and refuses to check his bag at Customs.  He is followed into the Men’s Room by an Officer… who he kills.  He isn’t exactly secretive about it either!

Okay, back to the temple, where… Katrina steals the booty.  Duh.

Savant, gives chase, and even offers to trade cold hard cash (and we’re not talking Grifter) in exchange for the loot.  But then… something happens.  Katrina stops running and assures… someone that everything is going to be okay.

Savant snags the mask… and we wrap up with the reveal of Katrina’s other friend… that other voice from inside Met-L, Sheba that Cat-Girl!

Well… I know that the concept of “every issue being somebody’s first” is long out the window… and has been for much of my comics collecting “career”.  But, ya know… part of me still believes, sweet summer child that I am, that if your book has a bright, shiny #1 on its cover… it has the duty and responsibility to be at least moderately accessible to people who might not be steeped in the lore of an entire comics universe to follow along and (fully) appreciate.

This book… was not.

I think, and pardon the tangent, it’s taken for granted that comics fans are, for the most part, a “closed system”… ya know, like oil for your car.  It’s the same bunch of people circulating through the hobby… and if you manage to pull one of ’em off the latest X-Book and onto yours, than good on ya.

Yet, at the same time, there’s always been this push to expand the readership into the “mainstream”… the more casual reader, who might have seen a movie or TV show… or hell, just thought the cover to an issue (or the bright, shiny #1 on the cover) was pretty cool.  Now, if I know a thing-or-two about the WildStorm Universe and still felt lost here, what hope in hell does a new reader have?

The issue, I really can’t judge it for quality, because if you were more steeped in the WildStorm/WildC.A.T.S universe, this might’ve been the best thing ever (he says hyperbolically)… though, if you’re not, it really won’t do much for ya.  You might get a giggle or two out of the sentient sex-toy… but, at the end of the day, I’m not sure you’d be so inclined to come back for a second helping.

I know I’m not.

Overall… a book you need to have a working knowledge of the WildStorm U to fully appreciate, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself… I always appreciate reader loyalty being paid off… it’s just that, while you’re “paying off” that loyalty, you should also be telling a story that’s easy to follow for potential newcomers… especially if yours is a book with a bright, shiny #1 on its cover.  I will say, however, that I really dug the art!

(Not the) Letters Page:

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0 thoughts on “Savant Garde #1 (1997)

  • Reggie Hemingway

    I really wrote off this whole era as being "Leefield, maan"-inspired art, but I'm learning that's not the case. In fact, the main three guys of Image, whose art I like the least, more or less abdicated their art desks to other people not long after Image began, leaving other people to interpret their styles–like this one, where Ryan Odagawa produces (like you say in the review) a more manga-inspired look. This comic still seems dumb as hell, it's not like I think I missed something so great in this particular instance, but I clearly wrote off a whole era of comics without really knowing what was inside (I was also at college for much of this post-boom era, when I had neither the wherewithal or money to get comics anyway)


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