COMIC REVIEW: ‘Savage – The Guv’nor’

If like me, you can remember back to 2000 A.D.’s very first story in it’s very first issue: ‘Invasion’, and its subsequent prequel story ‘Disaster 1999’, then you’ll be pleased to hear that ‘man-of-the-people’ hero Bill Savage is back!

I first met Bill Savage when I was 9 years old. That’s when I got that first issue of 2000 AD, and it led with ‘Invasion’ story line. Bearing in mind that up until that point, as a child in the 70’s, I’d been raised on a staple diet of ‘Battle’, ‘Warlord’, ‘Commando’, ‘Victor’ etc… i.e. largely nationalistic re-tellings of WW2’s greatest battles, where all the Germans were completely ruthless and had about a dozen words of the same dialogue… so a story about a modern-day invasion of the UK (well the whole of Europe actually) by a Russian/Chinese conglomerate army call the ‘Volgans’, pretty much ticked all my boxes back then.

Invasion centred on everyday, hard-working Bill, who upon returning home to London, finds his house destroyed by a stray tank shell and family killed, tools up with his shotgun and pretty much took on the whole Volgan army before escaping to Canada. Bill was the ‘people’s hero’: he joined the underground resistance (the Mad Dogs), and the writers made sure that although he wasn’t Sandhurst trained, he had the respect of all around him. And even though he was singled-mindedly “Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels” about what he did, they still wrote in human elements, such as the time he avoided heat-seeking missiles whilst flying in Concorde by remembering that the engines were air-cooled: “How could an ordinary chap like you know about that, Bill?” “Because my 11-year old son Kevin was nuts about plans… but he’s dead now.” After M.A.C.H. 1, Savage was my favourite – no, not Dredd for a long time.

Fast forward on 30+ years (and a very forgettable ‘Disaster 1999’ prequel in which Bill survives a flooded London due to that polar ice-cap melting), and I now see all the flaws of Bill. He probably would have put the boot in first, if Moore had included him in ‘V for Vendetta’, as there is a streak of xenophobia in Bill – he’s a lovable Isle of Dogs, jellied-eel eating East-Ender, but he’s probably a closet BNP supporter as well. So I was really intrigued to read ‘Savage – The Guv’nor’ by Pat Mills & Patrick Goddard.

The first thing you see is that Bill has lost his lorry-driver clothes and his twin-bore. He’s now sporting a pump-action, and looks like cross between the Equalizer and the Punisher. He has gotten a bit more sophisticated in his methods, but he is still driven & determined and the end always justifies the means. The Volgans haven’t changed much either: pretty much Nazis in occupation – very cruel in their subjugation, very Goebbels in their propaganda, very sadistic in their experimentation. One might have imagined that 30 years on, the writers might have tried to parallel occupied London with the occupied Middle East, but this is a very black & white environment – quite literally.

The stories themselves surround various sub-plots in the run-up to a D-Day type invasion of Britain by the US, who have up until now, sat on the sidelines and been content on selling weapons to the Volgans (this in itself is a paradox – not that the American would sell weapons, of course they would, but that after successfully conquering Europe, the Volgans would even need to!). These sub-plots range from a hunt for a Jackal-type assassin, to a ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ type creature roaming the bombed ruins of London. Some of the more interesting moments include what appears to be the inclusion of the cast of ‘Life On Mars / Ashes to Ashes’ in a segment where EMP bombs exploded over London reduce the city to a mobile-phone free zone, and the first prototypes of ABC warriors being used in the invasion of Britain.

If you like nostalgia – boys’ own war heroes against villains with scars on their cheeks, who would drown a puppy as soon as soon as look at it, then this is for you. If you prefer your comics to move with the times, then give this a miss…

Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: SilverFox

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