In the fury of the moment,
I can see the Master’s hand.
In every leaf that trembles,
In every grain of sand.
—“Every Grain of Sand” by Bob Dylan
There is a lot going on in the marvelous mini-series by Todd McFarlane, Brian Holguin and Clayton Crain. Savior is a mesmerizing mystery all wrapped up in human tragedy; it is an exploration of America’s reaction to tragic events; it is a meditation on the nature of faith in the face of both the horrible and the mysterious.
The story began with a terrible and deadly airplane crash onto a crowded highway outside of the small town of Damascus. The nation reels. The town of Damascus is devastated. The press is there with cameras and interviews and non-stop commentary. The masses descend to share in the grief, to witness the spectacle, and to bring the fiery condemnation of God upon victims, survivors and the mourners alike. McFarlane and Holguin show us a clear-eyed picture of America’s reaction to tragedy: the rapacious appetite of the 24-hour news cycle, the irrational need to place blame and assign guilt, the religious spirit that seeks answers in the face of the unknowable, the tragic, and the uncanny.
Into this mix is thrown something more, a superhero or sorts, a savior. A mysterious stranger wanders naked from the corn fields carrying a young victim of the crash, a victim healed by his magical touch. This savior seems as confused and bewildered by his power and identity as are those he touches. His presence, and absence, bring together journalist and police officer, two women from Damascus who have followed different paths but still wound up at the same place, together at the foot of this cross.
There is a lot going on here. There are questions about the meaning of life and the meaning of faith, questions about the role of the news media in this modern world, questions about America’s incoherent response to national tragedy, and, yes, questions about the kind of stories that comic books can tell.
With all of that important stuff going on, this is the most important thing: McFarlane, Holgun and Crain are telling a powerful and moving story, a story about people. It is a story told in moments – as human beings stand face to face, bump into one another at coffee shops, respond to tragedy and faith.
Crain is particularly good at these powerful human moments. Faces come into and go out of focus. Against the masses, the individuals stand out, catch our attention, demand our respect.
Witness the media interviews with protestors, supporters, and mourners. One man is there looking for a national savior, a Donald Trump who walks on water. One woman comes to show her support, to stand with strangers against tragedy and against the madness of faith gone wrong. One woman speaks for the mourners, confronts the media to demand that they all just be left alone.
Witness the memorial service for the victims. Light streams through windows in a cavernous cathedral. The priest is broken but hopeful, tired but faithful, a grizzled Socrates in vestments and robe.
Witness the mysterious stranger himself and his quiet, meaningful conversation with a man on the street, a man who finds signs of luck in the very act of losing.
Witness a coffee shop conversation, old friends – or at least acquaintances – who nearly come together and then spiral apart. Witness as “I know exactly what you’re feeling” quickly becomes “I’m not sure.”
Witness the savior himself, when his powers do not work, when his faith is too weak, when death itself is too strong.
In every case, the story lingers, holds the moment close. In one moment Crain gives us faces in shadow and then faces in light, faces in focus and then faces all a blur. In one moment we hear truths and then, perhaps, lies.
There is a lot going in the pages of Savior. Death and mystery and anger and grief. It is a big story about human suffering and the nature of faith. Planes fall from the sky. God walks the Earth.
For all of that, it is story told in moments, human moments. Death. Anger. Faith. Doubt. In a way, I suppose, the moments are all that really matter.
“In the fury of the moment,” Dylan told us long ago, “I can see the Master’s hand.” Of course, the moment passes, as all moments do, and Dylan’s believer faces other moments when faith is not so sure. Dylan, himself now a Socratic old priest, shows us that moment as well.
I hear the ancient footsteps,
Like the motion of the sea.
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there.
Other times it’s only me.
—“Every Grain of Sand” by Bob Dylan