The cover: The “Bold New Direction” is shown in this cover by Erik Larsen that has Malcolm Dragon following in his father’s footsteps having joined the Chicago Police Department. He’s rushing forward at the reader with his fists out, his teeth gritted, and ready to take down anyone who’s going to cause trouble in his city. This is a great shot of the hero in action, capturing some nostalgia by having him in a pose that his dad would be in from back in this book’s early years. The colors radiate strength, with strong reds leading right into the yellow and orange speed lines, which themselves lead to the greens of the title character. This is the type of image I look forward to seeing on a superhero book. Overall grade: A+
Note: Creator Erik Larsen takes some space in the opening of the Letters Page to state that much of this issue saw print as Savage Dragon Legacy #1, a Free Comic Book Day offering. However, Larsen states that there were some ideas he wanted to play with before this issue became part of Malcolm’s continuity, so he ended up doing more reworking of the material he intended. In fact, he calls his issue the “Ultimate Edition” of this tale. As someone who wasn’t lucky enough to read that FCBD issue, this was a nice peek behind the curtain of Larsen’s process.
The story: Malcom and Maxine are standing at the grave of Tierra Jones. He’s feeling responsible for her death, which was from Malcolm’s child which ripped its way out of her. Maxine is, rightfully, telling him that Tierra’s death is not his fault; he told her what would happen and Malcolm didn’t believe she was pregnant, given how she wasn’t a reliable source of information. Malcolm’s afraid that “some superpowered feral baby” is roaming the streets. As they leave the grave, Maxine says they should keep this conversation between the two of them until they learn more. It’s then off to the streets to smack down some villains. First up is Wrath. The pair tear up the street as they battle, with the winner never in doubt. As exciting as this scene was, it’s what happens afterwards that really got my attention. How the officers treat this “new” Dragon was worth the cover price, especially how one member, Captain Stewart, is trying to tell him how to look out for himself. Another warns him to be careful around — the greatest name for a supporting character — Dinsdale Peckerwood. I only had to read that name once and start laughing. I was very surprised to see how Malcolm reacted to this reporter. I know what his father would have done, but Erik Larsen has created a terrific scene showing that Malcolm is not his father, he’s own person and will react differently to situations. In fact, Malcolm visits his father, before going off to fight more bad guys, and the scene between the two of them is excellent. The villain Fountainhead brings a pair of concerns to Dragon, and the final page shows that someone else has gotten really serious about the new fin on the street. The drama was as good as the action in Larsen’s tale. Overall grade: A
The art: The visuals of the book continue to impress, opening with a very dramatic splash page at the cemetery. This is followed on Page 3 with a full page devoted to the Dragon fighting Wrath. This is the type of illustration that attracted me to Erik Larsen’s work long ago — big, bold, and exciting visuals. The pair beat the tar out of each other and take a good portion of the surroundings down in the process. Starting on Page 8 the after effects of such a monumental battle are shown, and I like how Larsen shows that his title character needs to rest — his posture at the bottom of the page clearly shows readers that the fight has taken a lot out of him. I liked the look Captain Stewart, who has the look of authority, but his final image on 9 shows that he also has a heart; I actually got a warm fuzzy from that image and the text. The scenes with Malcolm and his father are good because they focus on the characters and not the setting; if Larsen had pulled back to repeatedly show the location, it would have made the scene extremely somber, and Malcolm’s trying to escape from that mood. Rightly, Larsen focuses on their faces, showing their souls, letting the characters emote clearly to the readers as well as each other. The final fight of the issue is with Fountainhead, whose unique ability had me giggling. The final panel of the book is an excellent way to show something graphic without showing the graphic. I always enjoy Larsen’s work. Overall grade: A
The colors: The flats on this issue are done by Mike Toris and the colors by Nikos Koutsis. The serious tone of the opening setting is enhanced immensely by the powerful sunset behind the characters. Had the coloring been noon, it would not have had such an emotional impact. I like how those terrific yellows and oranges are brought over to the splash on 3 as Wrath and Dragon tangle — plus there’s also some excellent shading from the light source on each of the characters. The sounds on this book explode with power because of the dynamic color choices used to make them stand out from their panels, which can be seen very easily on Pages 4 – 7. I also like that when a character is involved in a powerful moment the background is colored with a solid character to heighten their strength, such as in the fourth panel on Page 5 and fourth panel on 6. Notice how once the fight has concluded, the color of the sky goes to a cool, calming blue, which alerts the readers that all is well. The background purple used for Dragon Senior’s cell is a good color to allow father and son’s greens to be really pronounced. As with the art, the colors on this book are strong. Overall grade: A
The letters: Dialogue, a grave, sounds, whispers, and yells all come courtesy Chris Eliopoulos. The sounds are amazing on this book, with some spreading across a double-paged spread. My favorite of the issue comes near the end: FRAKKA-ZAKK! Overall grade: A+
The final line: New job, new clothes, and three new lives are all part of Malcolm Dragon’s life. A highly enjoyable entry point for new readers and an excellent continuation of a saga begun over twenty years ago. Simply awesome. Overall grade: A