Too Much Hopeless Savages #1

Written by Jennifer Van Meter
Art by Christine Norrie and Sophie Campbell
32 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

Does anyone else remember when every other ’80s sitcom would have a special television movie involving another country and a thief hiding stolen goods in a main character’s bag? I mean, who else didn’t love The Facts of Life Down Under when the stolen opal was hidden in Natalie’s backpack, but she was lost in the Australian Outback? Or in the Family Ties Vacation where Alex was attending Oxford for the summer (and the rest of the family inexplicably comes along) but spies had hidden secret information in Mallory’s brush? Well, I think Jennifer Van Meter remembers these perhaps a bit too well… although this could actually be to our advantage.

The Hopeless-Savage family never seems to have a dull moment. Arsenal and Twitch are flying to Hong Kong with their boyfriends; Arsenal’s competing in a martial arts tournament with an old school nemesis as her opponent, while Arsenal and Twitch need to meet the loves of their lives’s grandmother. She’s not the only grandmother on the scene, with Grandma Savage having surfaced with a new preacher boyfriend who has formed a continual demonstration against the “evils” of the Hopeless-Savage house. Oh, and did I mention the mysterious package that someone slipped into Arsenal’s bag to avoid the Hong Kong authorities?

There were two different ways that Van Meter could have taken Too Much Hopeless Savages—comedy and drama—and in the end she wisely elects to take both. There’s a lot of strong relationship drama going on here, with Arsenal and Twitch trying to deal with possible rejection and isolation, or Nikki Savage trying to restore her mother to the way she was, and out of the grips of the preacher with his ulterior motives. There’s also a theme of fear running through the book; Twitch afraid of rejection, Nikki afraid of losing her mother, Arsenal’s fears brought on by memories of the first time she faced Angus Brentwood. Finally, there’s a nice undercurrent of humor, with the hidden package subplot, or Zero’s confrontations with the demonstrators outside her family home. Then again, Van Meter’s shown before that a combination of humor and seriousness is exactly what Hopeless Savages is all about, so this really shouldn’t be any surprise at all.

As nice of a change of pace it was to see Bryan O’Malley drawing the main storyline in Hopeless Savages: Ground Zero, it’s a delight to see original mini-series artist Christine Norrie back for the new series. She’s got such a natural way of drawing people; body language can be very difficult to express in a series of still images, but Norrie’s always been good at doing just that. From discussions on airplanes to confrontations on front steps, Van Meter’s scripts come to life through Norrie’s art with the greatest of ease. I was also really pleasantly surprised with Sophie Campbell’s flashback sequences; she uses a much thicker line than Norrie, but she’s certainly got the same skill in drawing every day people. At the same time, Campbell brings a dark sort of wickedness to Arsenal’s school fun fair, with mischievous grins on characters’s faces and wonderfully fun character designs in both the backgrounds and front and center. It’s a wonderful look for Arsenal’s school days, and I can’t wait to see what she gets to draw in the next issue.

When ’80s sitcoms sent their cast to a foreign country, it was usually because they’d run out of ideas. That’s very much not the case here, and despite what the title says, I don’t think there’s any such thing as being too much of the Hopeless-Savages. Bring them on! Too Much Hopeless Savages #1 is the first of a four-issue mini-series, and goes on sale this week at better comic book stores everywhere.

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