“White Savior” #1

By | January 26th, 2023
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

The village of Inoki is under siege by the evil Kenzo Mitsuhide and his Akuno clan. All hope seems lost until an outsider arrives. That outsider is Capt. Nathan Garin of the United States Army, and the Omura clan believed him to be the snow-colored skinned hero prophesied to lead them out of darkness. He did not. In fact, his failure was so complete, it would pass into legend, carried from generation to generation until the present day. That legend sets the stage for “White Savior,” the four issue miniseries from Dark Horse satirizing the trope of the same name.

NOTE: There are some spoilers here. Although one of them is kind of the inciting incident of the whole series, so there really isn’t anything too big. I swear.

Cover by Eric Nguyen
Written by Eric Nguyen and Scott Burman
Art by Eric Nguyen
Colors by Iwan Joko Triyono
Lettering by Micah Myers

Community college film professor Todd Parker finds himself transported to feudal Japan, encountering a legendary “savior” of Inoki, Nathan Garin.

The first three pages establish two very important things about the series: The first being the basics. We’re introduced to our protagonist (Todd Parker) in the present day while his grandfather tells him the story of Nathan Garin. Todd describes himself as having “more in common with McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza” than “any of the Seven Samurai,” and dismisses his grandfather’s stories as “the worst game of telephone ever.” It sets him up as a thoroughly modern guy, not only contrasted against his grandfather, but also the perfect someone to magically cast a few centuries back in time. Which is exactly what happens. He somehow stumbles into the age of the shogunate, while chasing a waitress who stole his wallet a couple pages earlier. The present wasn’t really going super great for our hero Todd either. And now he has to deal with a dumpster fire of a wannabe hero.

The second thing established by page three? This book is hilarious.

We don’t get a full taste of how much of a disaster human Garin is until the end. But our introduction to him involves the supposed “Savior” rushing head first into a volley of arrows to his death. Him charging into the line of fire looks pretty impressive at first, as if he’s “seemingly impervious to pain.” But no, he’s just not super bright. If his name sounds familiar, that may be Nguyen and Burman tipping their hand a bit. Some of their more infamous examples of the trope in question are Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise) in The Last Samurai and William Garin (Matt Damon) in The Great Wall. Not that the writers were keeping their intentions overtly secret. The words “White Savior” are right there on the cover after all. Although I’m going to be completely honest, did anyone really remember their names in those movies?

Sometimes the jokes are a bit forced at the beginning. But mostly just when establishing characters. But it doesn’t take long for the pieces to move into place and the book to smooth out in general. While not quite cracking the fourth wall, save for one great bit about a distant ancestor of George Takei, the comedy does scrape up against it in entertaining ways. As Todd lands in the middle of “The Battle of Blood and Stuff,” the battling samurai complain about wounds to their “phalanges” and “duodenum.” When asked what clan he belongs to, Todd may name drop a certain Cash Rules Everything Around Me hip hop act. Sometimes the humor is used to illustrate his detachment from not only traditionalism, but a lot of the associated stereotypes. Other times it’s “I landed on my balls.” Both work in their own respective ways.

Eric Nguyen co-writes the script with Scott Burman while handling art duties. With the help of Iwan Joko Triyono’s brilliant colors, each page is lively and compelling, even at first glance. But an interesting touch is how the art shifts over the course of the story. The battle scenes are scratchy and hectic. At least until Todd arrives, almost signaling the transition from distant folklore to real life. The characters from the past are more expressive facially and more vibrantly colored in design. They occupy bright crimson battlefields and serene azure villages. These shifts can be jarring. Although every time they are, it feels intentional. When you’re pulled from a tan presented day into a bloody war, it’s hard not to look at the ancient architecture of Inoki when everything is suddenly blue. It’s difficult to balance multiple art styles in a single book, but Nguyen manages it with remarkable ease. And no matter what style he’s in, Garin’s facial expressions are the best in the book.

Final Verdict: 9.5 – A bit of forced humor aside, “White Savior” #1 is a solid opener that establishes a great foundation for the rest of the series. The clever script pairs nicely with the creative and nuanced artwork. And I’m eager to see how our hero pairs with the supposed hero Capt. Garin.

Chris Cole

Chris Cole lives in a tiny village built around a haunted prison. He is a writer, letterer, and occasional charity Dungeon Master. Follow his ramblings about comics and his TTRPG adventures on Twitter @CcoleWritings.