Written by Todd McFarlane and Brian Holguin. Illustrated by Clayton Crain.
Issues published April 2015-November 2015. Trade paperback published April 2016.
A year ago I picked up the first issue of Savior. It fascinated me. The art was beautifully colored and I enjoyed the premise of the story. What happens if a savior arrives out of nowhere? What happens when he doesn’t want any recognition for it and just disappears? Despite the intrigue, after issue four I simply stopped reading. I can remember no reason for my hiatus other than getting busy. Even though my issues kept dutifully coming in through my subscription with the local comic shop, they were not read. April 29, 2016, I finally sat down and read them as a complete set.
Savior takes place in modern day America following a tragic plane crash in Damascus, Iowa. A man rescues a young girl who had been thrown from the plane into a nearby cornfield. She is in coma, but otherwise completely uninjured. The man, who does not remember his name or where he is from, is both a hero and a mystery, which cause some to believe he is God. The reader is even inclined to wonder about his divinity as biblical references are scattered throughout the series. The two main towns in the series’ present day are Abelsville, Kansas and Damascus, Iowa. Abelsville refers to the story of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis. Whereas the plane crashes on a country road approaching a town called Damascus, mimicking how Jesus blinded Saul on the way to Damascus. In the latter story, Saul’s name was later changed to Paul and he became the Apostle Paul who spread Christianity around his known world. These references are only the tip of the iceberg as the main character is seen bleeding from his palms and is shown using “Christ-like” abilities, such as walking on water and raising the dead. But do these signs mean that this man is actually Christ on Earth? Some believe he is, others question. Others even believe that the crash was an act of God to punish those sinners on the plane, going so far as to picket the town’s collective memorial service for those lost in the accident. I may discuss that group in more depth at a later date, but after consideration, I decided to focus on the larger theme for this post.
There is a mantra that echoes throughout the series: we believe what we want and we hear what we want. In the first issue, Cassie, a big time news reporter, is giving a lecture at her old high school in Damascus, Iowa. In her lecture, she discusses “confirmation bias,” which means that people will search for answers in a certain way that confirms their preconceptions, possibly leading to statistical errors or other prejudices. Her speech even goes so far as to bring up how the media camps have their own cliques and that there may be a day when people can go their whole lives getting information solely from sources they agree with. I would argue this is already happening to a degree, but I hope that most people are wiser than that and are searching through multiple sources to find the truth. I am also an optimist. Usually.
Although this theme of preconception is trickled throughout all the issues, the seventh issue has a government agent citing a statistic regarding the idea of believing only what we want to hear. According to the series’ version of the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA – an actual U.S. government agency), they say that 67% of people will believe misinformation if given through a reputable online source and that 31% will continue to believe it even if it is proved false through an authoritative source later. Now, are these statistics accurate? No idea. I may be a librarian, but I did not bother to thoroughly research it. This is a comic book and I take it all with a grain of salt. However, I am inclined to believe that many people will hold fast to what they are initially taught simply because they do not like their beliefs challenged and dislike change in general. I do. As much as I like to grow and learn and develop, there are parts of me and my beliefs that I want to stay constant.
I have not sat down and interviewed Todd or Brian to ask them exactly what they intended with the series, but after reflecting on an over-arching theme of presumptions and doubt, they probably wanted to create a story that allowed the reader to believe what they wanted about this mystery Savior and the tragedy of the plane crash. There are signs of divinity, but also many flashbacks to the main character’s past that imply he may just have been special in a way that may be more magical than divine. Therefore, readers are welcome to wrestle with the questions along with fictional bystanders. Do the readers relate to the townspeople who have to suffer through the loss? Do they relate with the nation who is watching from the media outlets? Do they think the people who died deserved it? Lastly, do they believe the hero is divine or just happened to be there at the right time? The reader answers those questions based on the facts presented and their own preconceptions, making Savior an entertaining and thoughtful read.