Dark Horse‘s grim post-apocalypse action series Savage Squad 6 returns for its second issue, taking the series in a different direction than expected as things get very weird in the irradiated Pripyat, as our all-female team of soldiers try to steal fuel rods from the ruins of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.
The opening issue of the series spent some time getting readers caught up on the world of Savage Squad 6, a future less than 15 years from now, but one where the world has fallen into ruin and darkness at the hands of an evil regime that slaughters anyone different for their own amusement. It’s here that we meet the titular Savage Squad, a group of young women who’ve had to step up and become warriors in order to protect the remnants of their home. Their newest member, medic Nat, has joined the team on their latest mission, preparing them to head into one of the most dangerous places on the planet.
Unfortunately, the group came under attack last issue, and a member of the team, Shells, was lost. The group are left thinking that it was the mutant bear that attacked camp, or that perhaps it’s a member of the evil Scourge who might have taken her. But as we saw at the end of the last issue, there are even more monsters out there waiting for them. Unable to stop and mourn for their friend, or try to find her body, the team continue on with their mission to the reactor. As the others head deeper into the irradiated zone, team sniper Mags take up position high in the famous Pripyat Ferris wheel. But as the team head into danger Mags is hunted by something much worse than the Scourge.
So, the first issue of the series kept things relatively grounded to a degree. Yes, it’s a futuristic setting with one foot in science fiction, but it still kept things fairly realistic. This issue, however, seems to fully embrace the more over-the-top elements to the point where it is actually quite surprising how wild things get here.
There is also what feels like a slight inconsistency with the first book. The final page reveal of the first issue showed readers that the Savage Squad were being hunted by a large mutant wolf. With glowing veins, two heads, and multiple eyes, the creature stood atop two ruined cars. The wolf is large, and looks to be maybe 15-20 feet in length. In the second issue, however, one of these wolves is shown standing up against the Ferris wheel, coming up to half the height. This is a lot bigger than the previous issue made out. The Pripyat Ferris wheel is 85ft tall and the wolf is at least half that (maybe a bit more), so this animal is at least 40ft long. It’s not just a large monster, it’s now in Kaiju territory. I’m not against giant monsters by any means, but the reveal of its true height was so surprising that it did kind of jolt me out of the book for a moment.
If the first issue was establishing the team that we’re following, this one is setting up the threat that they have to face. There’s a moment when the Scourge make an appearance, only to be shown as less scary, and less threatening than the monstrous mega-wolves that have made Pripyat their home. This sets the stall nicely for the book, and establishes a threat that is going to test the team to breaking point (they’ve already experienced losses), but we’re now at the half way point in the story and it feels like quite a lot of time has been spent on the set-up. With the team being up against such overwhelming odds perhaps the series is going to use the short length to further emphasise how deadly the wolves are; perhaps they don’t need more than an issue to kill off most of the team. The next two issues definitely feel like the ones that will make or break the story, and now that the shit has hit the fan and everything’s gone to hell it’s going to be how it all wraps up from here that matters.
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The art team do a decent job here, with the same creators as on issue one. There are some times where, thanks to the roughness of the art and the somewhat messy quality, a panel or two feel like they’re a bit rushed in places, which is the biggest downside of this style of art. When it looks good it’s great, but when it’s not firing on all cylinders it can feel like perhaps some corners were cut in order to meet deadlines. There are some really solid moments though, such as the big reveal of the mega-wolf standing up against the Ferris wheel, howling up at its prey. It’s likely to be the one image from the series that people will remember the most, and it absolutely stands out for how well executed and cool the moment is. Though the preview for the cover image for the third issue is ridiculously impressive too.
This very much felt like a mixed issue, one where the more realistic and ridiculous tones came together in such a way that the shift into the wilder stuff felt a little more jarring than was probably intended. That being said, it was still a decent and enjoyable read. It’s likely that things from here are going to move a lot faster, and will be going a bit more over-the-top, and I’m interested to see how it all turns out.
Savage Squad 6 #2 is out now from Dark Horse.