Overview

Savage Beauty #1

Review

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Savage Beauty #1

Credits

  • Words: Mike Bullock
  • Art: Jose Massaroli
  • Colors: Bob Pedroza
  • Story Title: "Souls of the Wicked"
  • Publisher: Moonstone Books
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Feb 2, 2011

If you’re a fan of monthly comics, then you have to love the value found in a book like Moonstone’s Savage Beauty. Not only is there a brand new story by fan-favorite scribe Mike Bullock featuring a pair of his newest creations but the book also boasts a slew of special features and a beautiful Tom Yeates cover – all for a measly $2.99.

At first glance, Savage Beauty might appear a bit simplistic by modern standards. The plot is fairly straightforward, the art looks just a bit dated, and the characters are fairly typical. Despite this, Savage Beauty works. The reason why it works is that it doesn’t waste time or space trying to emulate what other mainstream books already do so well. There are no cheesy coloring FX here; no superhuman civil wars or multiversal crises to survive, although there are costumes of a sort. Savage Beauty is a sterling example of what its publisher Moonstone Books does best and that’s create genre fiction harkening back to a more primal form of storytelling, when conflicts and characters were both huge and painted in broad strokes.

The trick with this approach to comics is to infuse just enough modern sensibility, either through the plot or the art, so that today’s finicky fanboys can still relate to the story and characters. This is something of which Bullock is very cognizant, thanks to his epic run on Moonstone’s Phantom books and the creation of his own pulp-influenced properties, such as Death Angel. In Savage Beauty, Bullock follows a long tradition of jungle adventure fiction featuring scantily clad women fighting their way through hordes of cannibals, poachers, and predators.

While Bullock craftily refrains from tinkering with the traditional structure of these stories, he does shift the plot segments around to create a sense of mystery and suspense. He seeds his story with socially relevant themes, secret organizations, and mysterious African deities. He confidently assumes his audience has already suspended their disbelief from the moment they paid the goggle-wearing, pimple-faced cashier and drops these plot points quickly and easily in the course of his characters’ dialogue. Unwilling to sacrifice a fast pace for pages of lengthy exposition, Bullock succeeds in quickly establishing the themes and mechanics governing his dangerous jungle paradise by dropping his readers directly into the story from page one.

Now, if only Bullock’s artistic collaborator lived up to the standards achieved in the plot and pacing. While there’s no doubt Jose Massaroli’s style evokes that cool retro feel, his rendering felt a little too cartoonish, a little too eighties for the story. A solid artist who for the most part clearly translates Bullock’s script, I was a little disappointed that Massaroli stumbled a bit during the big double-page reveal of Anaya. It lacked that sense of opera promised by Yeates’ cover and was a little confusing due to awkward page construction. I couldn’t help but wonder how much better the book would have been if Yeates did the interiors as well.

Despite this, I highly recommend Savage Beauty to anyone who has a hankering for fast-paced, sultry jungle adventure. Featuring not one but two stunning super-spies in animal print bikinis and a bunch of cool back-up features paying tribute to the history of sassy jungle heroines, Savage Beauty is a smart, affordable purchase that will remind you of that long-ago time when the goggle-wearing, pimple-faced cashier actually gave you change back.

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