Savant review.
  • UK publisher / ISBN: Planet Jimbot - 978-1-9164535-6-2
  • Release date: 2022
  • UPC: 9781916453562
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and that’s certainly true of Savant, written by Jim Alexander and drawn by Will Pickering. While the cover is nice enough, it doesn’t tell us much about the content, beyond a starry background hinting at sci-fi.

Lode is from the planet Savant, whose inhabitants often undertake a cosmic walkabout, collecting and recording experiences and emotions directly into their own minds, before returning home to upload them to their towers of knowledge. They’re Australians, basically. Lode is unusual in that she chooses to visit war-torn worlds to collect the experiences of the dying.

Alexander’s story owes much to Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (itself inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), with our protagonist assisting a small team of marines in their pursuit of someone who’s gone off-grid and off their rocker simultaneously. She’s downloaded his memories – taken in evidence for a war crimes trial – and this makes her ideally suited to tracking him. The overt messianic overtones of the plot also puts one in mind of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Will Pickering successfully depicts the varied environments, from futuristic cities to blasted deserts. Occasionally the panels can be sparse, and the impression is given the massive battle scenes were not the artist’s favourites, but overall he does a fine job. Colour is an important element, and Fin Cramb’s colouring adds tone and atmosphere.

Alexander has been concentrating on novels of late, yet delivers a story that would sit comfortably in the pages of 2000AD, with it’s blend of American and European comic styles. His writing is somewhat poetic and heightened, but manages to remain just the right side of pretentious. He avoids too much exposition, while not scrimping on the world-building necessary for a tale of this nature, and there’s a pleasing shape, circling back round to the introduction once the adventure has run its course.

With a fairly low page count (about 45 pages) this may be more graphic novella than novel, but it manages to squeeze an enjoyable and satisfyingly complete story into that space.