While already a significant player in the pages of “Demon Knights,” Vandal Savage gets top billing in “DC Universe Presents” #9. This Vandal Savage and his “Demon Knights” counterpart, however, need not have anything in common and you don’t have to be familiar with “Demon Knights” to jump right in to this adventure.
I generally think of James Robinson as a legacy writer, playing upon the generational connections, which is exactly what he does here, but that isn’t all the issue delivers. The writer introduces us to Kassidy Sage, one of the F.B.I.’s most prominent profilers. Kassidy is working on a missing persons case that requires insight from a prisoner at Belle Reve. That prisoner just so happens to be Vandal Savage. As has been spoiled elsewhere, it is quickly revealed in this issue that Vandal happens to be Kassidy’s father.
With that connection, Robinson sets this story up to be a twisted version of a buddy cop film, only with a bizarre family connection and a madman who claims to have made sacrifices to gods no one believes in any more, not serial killings. Around all that, as he has done throughout his work with DC, Robinson adds depth and history to the DC Universe. He introduces Red Death, a character seemingly created to be a plot device, but that character is different from any other piece of cannon fodder that already exists in the DCU. I doubt we’ll see more of him as this tale continues, but it is indicative of Robinson’s contributions to the post-relaunch DC Universe.
Bernard Chang’s art is beautiful and clean, exactly what comic book art should be. Although the story is set in Belle Reve and does have a scene with a metahuman cutting loose, the majority of this issue is of a more mundane nature considering the DC Universe is so rife with superhumans. Chang makes the mundane interesting. The artist realizes the feature of the story is Savage and his relationship to Sage, so he frequently drops out the backgrounds, the better to emphasize the emotions of the characters. Coloring his own work certainly helps Chang keep the characters and their surroundings clean and vital, making this comic book into something I’d like more of.
I’ve sampled “DC Universe Presents” since the relaunch, but never really absorbed it. The previous tales have featured characters that interested me more than Vandal Savage, but with this issue, Robinson has personally redeemed the title and cultivated my interest in Vandal Savage. It’s worth noting considering this story progresses that the title of the arc is “Savage,” without any specification to which member of the Savage family we’re talking about. I will certainly be back to find out.