STORY: James Robinson
ART: Bernard Chang
While the spotlight remains on his work over on Earth 2, James Robinson has assembled a fantastic trilogy of issues that focuses on Vandal Savage, one of DC’s most brilliant and deadly villains. Mirroring the structure of Silence of the Lambs – not unlike many contemporary thriller stories involving serial killers – Robinson introduces Savage’s daughter and hard-ass, Kassidy Sage, as a detective trying to take down a murderer imitating a killing spree her own father went on years earlier. While the narrative structure might be familiar, Robinson’s style gives the relationship between Savage and Kass a thick tension that never really lets up.
In this final issue of the arc, the killer is revealed to be Steven Ward, the son of the detective to tracked down and arrested Vandal Savage all those years ago. Adam Ward was celebrated as a criminal justice mastermind, able to decrypt Savage’s ancient methods and inhuman motives. For reasons unexplained – because it really isn’t that important, Ward became physically deformed after Savage murders his father, developing bleach white skin and grotesque bird-like talons where hands should be. He blames Savage not only for the murder of his father, but also for the string of murders Ward himself was “forced” to commit in order to orchestrate Savage’s leave from his prison cell. Ward’s belief in his righteous cause blinds him to the truth of his situation – he’s become a homicidal maniac.
Robinson’s characterization of Kassidy Sage is nothing short of devoted. At the beginning of this arc, the reader is introduced to a strong female character that was suddenly faced with a situation that could have shattered her confidence and made her question her own morality. Instead, Robinson gives Kass an unyielding personality with stoicism that never breaks. Kassidy Sage is who Jodi Foster wishes she had been. It doesn’t take a genius to see how popular forensic criminal science has become over the past decade (CSI, Cold Case, Law & Order, NCIS, etc.), and Robinson takes advantage of this fad, presenting traditional DC characters in a more familiar and attention-grabbing role that’s sure to win over a few crime procedural fans.
DC Universe Presents exists to give lesser-known characters a bigger spotlight. And though Vandal Savage is hardly “lesser known”, beyond this arc, he’s only featured in the pages of Demon Knights, a title set centuries in the past. Robinson’s fun romp into the arena of psychological thriller is just fun. It’s not too original, hardly unique in it’s narrative structure, and Savage is presented as a stereotypically remorseless killer (who believes he’s been) gifted with immortality. Really, it comes down to Robinson’s handling of each character and the relationships between them that really sell “Savage” as an excellent part of DC’s ‘New 52’ universe.