I have a theory about this comic, or, at least, about how best to appreciate this comic. Donât go into it expecting logical, consistent characterization. Donât think, âhey, I hope this comic explores the deeper themes of superhuman identity.â Donât ask what might happen next. Just enjoy the sheer camp excess flowing from the pages. Let yourself get swept up by the overblown grotesquery of the series, and I think youâll find that dozens of costumed villains pounding on each other can be an enjoying ride.
Iâm not saying this comic is so bad itâs good. Iâm not saying that itâs camp because itâs not sophisticated enough to have literary pretentions. Iâm saying that itâs a comic that contains lines of dialogue like, âLetâs see just how tough you martians really are!â and âOw! Hurt!â while maintaining a straight-faced dignity. Itâs camp because it doesnât try to wink at the audience and make it seem like everyoneâs in on the joke. It plays it straight, and revels in its own excess. This is a comic that featured, in the previous issue, a gorilla beating another gorilla using a brain as a weapon. Not metaphorically. Literally. Smashing a metal-encased hunk of grey matter into the skull of a downed ape. And it did that without saying to the reader: isnât this hilarious? Not in "Salvation Run"! This comic tries to be serious and fails, and thatâs what makes it so much fun.
Issue #5 is, artistically, a significant improvement over previous issues, as fill-in artist Joe Bennett can draw with far more dynamism and fluidity than regular artist Sean Chen. Chenâs characters look like gritted-teeth action figures, and move about the page like they have been posed for a middle school diorama, while Bennett is able to effectively negotiate between foreground and background, allowing his characters to leap to and fro with balletic grace. Luckily, he still maintains the standard Salvation Run facial expressions throughout: either grim or angry, except for the Joker, of course, who is both grim and angry but hides it under that plastic smile of his. Bennettâs artistic talents do not in any way detract from the camp value of this comic, donât worry.
Writer Matt Sturges, who replaced the over-worked Bill Willingham a couple of issues ago, continues his apparent mission to push this comic into absurd territory, which I find absolutely enjoyable. Heâs the guy who wrote the gorilla on gorilla action last issue, and here he juggles the warring supervillain factions with a subplot about Vandal Savageâs secret plans and the reveal of an even bigger (much, much bigger) threat from off-planet. This doesnât feel like the comic Willingham started, and thatâs a good thing. Willingham seemed interested in exploring the "Lord of the Flies" dynamic of immature characters on an inhospitable world. Sturges, on the other hand, seems interested in turning it all into a frenzy of explosions and heat vision, gigantic girls and falling martians. Restraint is not what this comic is all about, and that makes it worth a look. Enjoy it for what it is.