Current Reviews


Sunday Slugfest - The Savage Brothers #1

Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2006
By: Keith Dallas

Writers: Andrew Cosby, Johanna Stokes
Artists: Rafael Albuquerque, Cris Peter (colors)

Publisher: Boom! Studios

Editor’s Note: The first issue of The Savage Brothers will appear in stores this Wednesday, August 16.

Average Rating:

Ariel Carmona Jr.:
Geoff Collins:
Michael Deeley:
Kelvin Green:
Robert Murray:
Dave Wallace:

SPOILER WARNING: The following reviews address plot developments of the issue

Ariel Carmona Jr.

Plot: After scamming an old lady, the Savage brothers, who are making money by running a zombie containment racket in a post apocalyptic world, are paid a lot of money to find a missing doctor. After finding their undead target, they have to subdue it and are then forced to drive into downtown Atlanta to avoid some mysterious pursuers, but what awaits them there can’t be good.

Comments: “The end of days is here and we’re all living on borrowed time.” This is what Dale Savage, one of the Savage brothers, says early in the book which establishes the setting for this story where, right off the bat, we see them scamming an old lady for her life savings. These guys aren’t honest, and they’re also not stupid. They’ve carved themselves out a nice gig amidst the zombies and the undead creatures in the aftermath and ruin of a catastrophic world altering event.

Despite their flaws, the protagonists are likeable. They’re a couple of guys you wouldn’t mind going out and having a beer with, and this makes riding out with them into their adventures that much more pleasurable. Otis may look like a reject from the WWE, and Dale resembles a younger, less scruffier version of Logan minus the claws and the healing factor, but these guys are well developed as far as characterization goes.

It never hurts to have a good mystery unfolding in the course of the narrative to balance out the zombie sharp-shooting action. Who is this mysterious Dr. Diller? This is one question which does not get answered in this initial outing. Instead, there’s an interlude involving “The Head,” apparently the leader of an undead army and his plans to sacrifice a stripper. “The Head” appears to be cut from the same cloth as Basil Cronus from Godland, a bizarre visual in a landscape of equally strange characters. Cosby and Stokes have a good handle on their story, and their narrative is enhanced by some high quality work on the part of the skilled artists involved who manage to give the material the attention it deserves.

Influences: This book’s obvious influences are The Walking Dead, the excellent comic opus about a zombie infested world by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore, which I’m sure this comic will get compared to ad nauseam, and other comics like Dark Horse’s The Goon where the action is balanced by humor and visual and verbal absurdities. Frogs raining on Wednesdays (seemingly a reoccurring event in this apocalyptic fantasy) is a good example of the bizarre, but chuckle inducing constants which occur in other comics of this ilk.

Final word: This comic book is fun. Not enough comics from the big companies, which appear nowadays more concerned with their big crossover events and tying in as many of their ongoing titles to said events, are as much fun as this simple but satisfying zombie saga. I want to see where it is heading in future installments.

Geoff Collins

What’s more fun than the apocalypse? Following a couple of hick zombie bounty hunters in the apocalypse. That is what Savage Brothers is. It’s not exactly high class stuff. You’re not going to put it down and think, “Wow…I need to make some changes in my life,” or, “I can’t wait for the next issue,” but I doubt you’d think, “I want my money back.”

The Savage brothers go around killing the zombies of people’s loved ones for money and alcohol. Well, at least they pretend to. Zombies look a lot alike, so they easily rip people off by killing a zombie, any zombie, and claiming it’s the loved one. Case in point, after killing a zombie and taking a Polaroid as proof, the woman who hired them says, “I don’t remember Cletus bein’ so blond,” to which one brother replies, “That’s no doubt from him spending so much of his undead life out in the sun.”

A lot of the dialogue is funny, but there is some really bad exposition. In the scene with the aforementioned woman, Dale uses an elongated sales pitch which goes, “Mrs. Mitchum, I have in my hand irrefutable proof the Mr. Mitchum is finally actually dead dead. Not just un-dead. As you know, the end of days is here and we’re all living on borrowed time…You hired us to release him from the chains of his earthly coil…and that we did. And this is the proof,” and this is a review of a comic book for At this point in time I am criticizing the comic book for not being subtle in introducing us to their world. Apparently they think it necessary to spell everything out, instead of hinting at them— that I intend as a criticism.

My hope is that after the first issue, the creators will not feel it necessary to explain everything that is going on. The comic book has great art. Fitting the light-heartedness of the comic, it is cartoony but still has a lot of detail thrown in all over which I like. The artwork distinguishes each character rather than lazily making everyone similar. The colors are also done uniquely. They use a lot of oranges, reds, and grays which set the atmosphere of not only being in the dirty south, but also in the apocalypse. Everything about the art adds to the writing.

I highly recommend people check this out. The story line isn’t exactly Long Halloween, but it still is setting up well enough to not ruin the book, and almost everything else about it is a blast (just not the exposition). Though it is about zombie hunters, I don’t think its appeal is limited to just one genre; I think people who like superhero comics will like Dale and Otis, indie comic fans will like the humor and quirkiness, and horror comic fans will like the setting. If not for the exposition, I would have rated this higher than .

Michael Deeley

The Apocalypse has arrived. The dead walk the broken fiery Earth. Frogs fall from the sky. And two enterprising young men are taking advantage of it.

Clem and Otis Savage make a living killing zombies and charging their loved ones for giving them “eternal peace.” A man in a suit pays them heavily to find an undead doctor in Atlanta. The grab goes well until the suit and his friends start shooting at our boys. Once they escape, they find a severed head in a jar about to sacrifice a virgin stripper.

It’s quick, but it’s fun. The zombie-hunting business is a fresh take on an old story. And while zombie movies imply the end of the world has come, this is the first zombie story where it really has. And the Apocalypse is played with such comic effect. “It’s raining frogs.” “Must be Wednesday.” Now that’s deadpan humor!

The Savage Bros. are despicable mercenaries taking advantage of people’s religion and love to swindle them out of what little they own. And yet, they’re completely likable. They really are just a couple of good ol’ boys making their way any way they know how. And without the laws of God or man, anything’s allowed. They’re funny, fearless, and slick. They just might survive the end of the world, then meet up at the bar for a few cold ones.

The art naturally tends towards the cartoony. The world is bleak, the zombies hideous, but none of it seems very frightening. There’s plenty of grit and grime to create the sense of destruction and devastation. But the anatomy is very solid: excellent facial expressions and body proportions. It’s a solid foundation for the physical comedy.

The Savage Brothers is off to a good start. I’m hoping the next issue will explain exactly who this severed head is, and maybe explain how and why the world came to an end.

Kelvin Green

It’s always nice to get a title to review which has some feature that immediately grabs the attention; in the case of The Savage Brothers, it’s the scenario which impresses. The setting is fun and compelling, with the End Times given a distinctively pulpy feel; this is an Apocalypse full of dodgy deals and unsavoury types out to make a fast buck, but also one ripe for adventure, with plenty of villains to battle and the odd scantily clad woman to rescue. It’s Conanesque storytelling moved into a modern day Biblical Apocalypse, with two cowboys in a pickup replacing the usual barbarian hero.

Sadly, that last bit is the part with which I have some problems. The whole desert-dwellin’ good ol’ boy thing does absolutely nothing for me, but the writers seem to think that there’s enough potential in that character archetype to present it as is, and thus bring nothing interesting or innovative to these particular protagonists. The result is a pair of utterly generic, off the shelf leads with no engaging features whatsoever, putting the entirety of the storytelling burden on the setting and action; while both areas have their strengths, I’m not sure they’re strong enough to carry the comic on their own.

I think I must have missed the left turn at Alburquerque as I’ve never heard of him before, but his artwork here is very impressive, particularly the confident and distinct linework and the just slightly exaggerated sense of characterisation and storytelling. Cris Peter’s colouring is a bit erratic however, with an unpleasant clash between an inconsistent approach and a palette made up of almost-neon tones; it’s possible that the intent is to convey an appropriately Hellish feel, but the impression we actually get is more that these events take place in a seedy nightclub on two-for-one night.

There’s a great deal to enjoy here, but I have little desire to pick up future issues, most likely due to the generic protagonists. I wish I had less ambivalence to the clichés, but this comic just feels somewhat hollow to me, despite its many strengths.

Robert Murray:

I could practically hear the redneck accents coming off the page in this first issue of The Savage Brothers! Yeah, Billy Bob and Junior are alive and well and living in zombie-infested Atlanta (Sorry! Obscure horror movie reference!)! You ever seen Shaun of the Dead? Take the same idea and execution, mix it with some shotguns and Schlitz, and you have this zombie comedy/nightmare. That’s not to say that this comic book is half bad. This is a series with a very simple premise: two country bumpkin brothers, Dale and Otis, are sending zombies to their final resting place for a fee. Substitute zombies for bounty-heads and you’ve got Cowboy Bebop, Alabama style. Yee Ha! There is nothing new or innovative in the script that Andrew Cosby and Johanna Stokes have put together. In fact, most of it is very cliched, though ‘The Head’ and the sacrifice near the end of the issue are a nice little twist. I know that some of you who read this will say, “Rob, the cliche is part of the charm of this issue, what with all the redneck references.” I agree with that sentiment, and that is why I didn’t give this issue a lower rating. There were multiple times in Issue #1 when a chuckle audibly escaped my lips (I cracked up when Dale asks for directions from the gas station attendant, who says, “It’s just past the lake of fire.” Dale responds, “Gonna need you to be a bit more specific”). But, is this a comic that is aesthetically top-notch in script and in art-work? My lands, no! The Savage Brothers #1 is dumb fun that is the perfect kind of comic book for the beach, the dog park, or the fishing pier.

With Cosby and Stokes behind the wheel of this little production, you know that there are going to be a lot of television sensibilities to this issue, and that is exactly what you get. In fact, you’ll feel like you’re speed-flipping between an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard and a Sci-Fi presentation of a Tremors movie (hopefully the first one). Yeah, by speed I mean that this issue is fast, fast, fast. Like Cosby’s X-Isle and Stokes’ Zombie Tales: Death Valley, this is paced very quickly, leaving no time for long interludes or in-depth dialogue. Action and snap-hilarity are the name of the game, and Cosby and Stokes make no allusions to serious character development here. They plow straight ahead, taking the boys from a mercy killing for money and Schlitz to a shady operation involving a zombie doctor. There might not be as much zombie-stomping action as you would expect, but you’ll feel your heart pumping as you follow the boys on their break-neck adventures during this zombie holocaust. Oh, and the raining frogs are a very nice touch! This is Land of the Dead with biblical proportions! One element I really have to praise Cosby and Stokes on is their realistic sounding dialogue, which evokes a lot of the personality in these characters. Like I stated in the beginning, I could hear Dale’s accent when he says something like, “You talk too damn much.” This is a credit to the writers, who have obviously listened to redneck speech patterns and... Alright, that was a little mean! Anyway, nice job on the dialogue throughout (I like how the girl about to be sacrificed says, “So far, the Apocalypse blows”).

As for the artwork by Rafael Albuquerque, it’s solid work, though a lot of the faces and poses were a little too rough and didn’t jive with the quirky fun of the issue. Granted, Albuquerque does a great job at depicting action and moving the plot smoothly from panel to panel, which works right into the speedy hands of Cosby and Stokes. But, I just felt like the facial emotions and body forms of the characters really didn’t add to the humor or excitement in the issue, making Savage Brothers a little less entertaining than it could have been. Add to that the slightly flat coloring by Chris Peter, and you have a first issue that looks fair, but not up to the standards set by other Boom! productions.

Verdict? If you’re looking for a fun, straight-forward thrill ride, you can’t do much worse than Savage Brothers, though the $4 cover price kinda frustrates me. The zombie and redneck cliches are fast and furious, but they are written with a light tone, showing that Cosby and Stokes are just having fun here. And the fun’s pretty contagious, so you’re sure to have a pretty good time. However, the final page of the issue had me scratching my head: is Dale really trying to play hero, or is he just horny? I don’t know, but I’m probably taking this ending more seriously than the writers intended.

Dave Wallace:

There’s something attractive about this comic which is hard to pin down. Maybe it’s the simplicity of the concept of two brothers trying to make a living as Bounty Hunters in a zombie-filled, post-apocalyptic world. Perhaps it’s the funny interplay between Otis and Dale Savage, which brings to the book the kind of stupid-clever characterisation and concisely amusing, dryly witty writing which is reminiscent of other great redneck comedies (My Name is Earl springs to mind). I’d also cite the artwork as a great attraction, as I really enjoyed Rafael Albuquerque’s thick lines and well-defined, solid characters, and the vivid red-orange colouring really enhances the world-gone-to-hell Mad Max vibe. Either way, I liked this book a lot more than I was expecting.

The plot of this issue, such as it is, sees the boys hired to go to Atlanta and take out one of the many thousands of zombies who appear to be roaming around the U.S. There’s no real explanation yet given as to how the world got this way, and frankly, the book doesn’t need one: it’s nice to see a fantastical situation like this be taken as a given in a #1 issue, as it not only allows for the characters and their story to be placed at the centre of the action, but it also leaves the background history to be explored at a later date, with the potential for some interesting future stories. The fact that the unnatural post-apocalyptic happenings of Otis and Dale’s world are reacted to as if they’re completely normal gives the book more of a grounding in reality than something which tried to explain everything away quickly before plunging into the story, and the concentration on the Savage Brothers instead of the bigger picture gives the book an easy charm and energy which makes the whole thing feel closer to the Dukes of Hazzard than Dawn of the Dead. (There’s also a touch of Full Throttle in there, for anyone fortunate enough to have played that roaringly fun 1990s point-and-click Lucasarts videogame).

The art is grand when it needs to be (a couple of full-page splashes demonstrate Albuquerque’s talents well, but never feel gratuitous) but generally follows the writing in concentrating on the two central characters instead of trying to show us too much of the book’s universe too quickly. However, the book’s odd cliffhanger suggests that things are soon going to move into a slightly more fantastical and off-the-wall area – yet also with a little more of a straightforward hero-vs.-villain vibe. I’m not sure how well it’ll work given that most of my enjoyment of the book came from the simple fun of seeing the boys take down zombies and ride around in their 4x4 (an admittedly thin concept for an ongoing comic), and it provides an ending for this first issue which takes the shine off the preceding fun pages a little as it doesn’t really seem to fit the tone established up to that point. Still, this doesn’t stop the book being a pretty enjoyable read in its own right – even if I’m not convinced by where the story looks to be going in future.

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