History tells us of a violent feud between two clans in Feudal Japan—the blood-thirsty Akuno and the peaceful Omura. Though they were outmatched, the leaders of the Omura did not fear, for they had the power of prophecy on their side. Their legends told of a stranger with snow-colored skin, who would come in their time of greatest need and lead them to victory over their ancestral enemy.
This did not come to pass.
Unfortunately, the first snow-skinned stranger who came to the Omura was Captain Nathan Garin of the US Army. An idiot and a drunkard, Captain Garin led the Omura into battle, where they were promptly slaughtered. Since then, the Omura are largely forgotten, save as an example of how not to fight a war.
This history is largely meaningless to Todd Parker, a Japanese American professor of film history. His grandfather told him tales of the Omura, but he never expected it to be relevant to his life. Then again, Todd never expected to travel through time to feudal Japan while chasing the woman who stole his wallet, either. Now, on the eve of the final battle between the Akuno and the Omura, it is up to Todd to rewrite history and convince his ancestors of the folly of their beliefs.
White Savior is one of the most metatextual works of fiction I have ever read. Author and artist Eric Nguyen makes it clear how annoyed he is by the plethora of fiction in which a modern man uses his advanced knowledge to avert disaster. This applies to both historical fiction where a white savior is charmed by a different culture and the speculative fiction where a time traveler uses their knowledge of the future and technology to save the day.
Nguyen is not alone in this annoyance. The trope was prominent enough among classic science fiction that Mark Twain satirized it in 1889 with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I find this a fitting comparison because White Savior, much like the Mark Twain novel, is only saved from being preachy by being uproariously funny. What Blazing Saddles was to the Western, White Savior aspires to be to movies like The Last Samurai.
While the script by Nguyen and co-author Scott Burman tackles the racism of the white savior trope, he also mocks the time travel savior through his hero, Todd Parker. Far from full of helpful knowledge of the future, Todd mostly snarks about his misfortune and makes pop culture references nobody understands. He also breaks the fourth wall to a degree that would shame Mel Brooks.
Nguyen’s artwork is as sharp as his satire. He does a fine job illustrating the architecture and armor of feudal Japan. The colors by Iwan Joko Triyono are also good.
Dark Horse Comics rated this volume as 14+. I think that is a perfect rating, as the sophomoric tone and sarcastic examination of tired tropes is ideally suited to the cynical teen audience. There is some bloodshed and adult language, as well as some suggestive remarks when Todd wakes up to find himself being bathed by several women in a scene he is quick to say he is positive is not historically accurate.
By Eric Nguyen, Scott Burman
Art by Eric Nguyen
Dark Horse, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 14+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Japanese-American
Character Representation: Japanese-American