In Review: Savage Dragon #223

Family and a fractured future come to the forefront in this issue and it's a winner.

The covers: Two very different options for you to choose from in this month’s installment of Savage Dragon. The Regular cover has everything but the kitchen sink on it, and that could be hidden somewhere. A gigantic Mr. Glum holds the Earth in his hand, and it’s cracking under his heavy grip. In the foreground Malcolm is holding Angel over his shoulder as he’s trying to evade the grasp of the mutants plaguing them. Erik Larsen’s artwork is powerful, with the characters looking great and the setting is full of so much detail, the cover starts the epic-ness of this issue before a page is ever turned. I’m really growing fond of Larsen’s space scenes, with all the debris that comprises them, and the rock ruble that populates it is equally well done. I love this cover. The Aprils Fool Variant cover is something that will unquestionably set off fans if they don’t read the fine print. Against a dramatic close up of a bloodied and beaten Dragon head, the text states “First Issue In A Bold New Direction From Scott Snyder and Jock!*” Down at the bottom in tiny print it states “*Not Really!” I had to remove the fishhook from my mouth after seeing this cover because I fell for it. Granted, Larsen has been doing Dragon for decades, but him passing it on to someone else would be devastating. This is a great cover by Jock, though, and the text made me laugh. Overall grades: Both A

The story: Erik Larsen is packing a lot in this issue, building to cosmic change. The book starts simply with Dragon learning from Lorella that she and the Krylan birthing project is moving to France since the U.S. government “is no longer willing to assist in this endeavor.” He feels hurt, since, after all, the 167 offspring “were a part of me.” She tells him to go on with his life, as she is going on with hers. Meanwhile, Jennifer Murphy tries on one of her uniforms, which still fits, prompting Angel to ask if she and Dragon are going to marry. Jennifer realizes that it’s been seventeen years and much as changed. “That was a different world, Angel.” This prompts the mother to ask her daughter a question, leading to an awkward response. At Malcolm and Maxine’s place, the wife wakes up her husband in a unique way, though she doesn’t get to fulfill her desire due to an off panel cry. The villain of the issue makes his debut on Page 4: Mr. Glum. The villain is upset that drones from Earth are pursuing him. He believes he’s been betrayed by Angel, who he willingly released to her home world, if she was not to reveal his location. This action causes him to make the ultimate decision to get “his” Angel back. Before that occurs, several stories are followed with all the characters building up their relationships with each other. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Dragon action, because it’s always tremendous, but these character scenes are terrific. Maxine meeting Jennifer was great, as was her meeting the three newest characters to the series. Malcolm gets to have two characters finally meet and it was a warm moment. The highlight for me in these scenes was Dragon and Alex: I have never rooted more for a character to be happier in the run of this series than Alex. Nothing hits me harder than watching her heart be continual torn up, and her resolution is just as painful. There is a big action sequence in this book, and it’s good, but what Glum is up to do looks to be making a massive change to this series’ direction. The final panel will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the next issue. Overall grade: A

The art: What isn’t Erik Larsen doing in this book visually? The character work is clear, allowing readers to quickly identify who is being looking at, providing scale for the characters, and placing them in settings that are highly detailed, with action sequences that are powerful. The first page is major information scene, but notice that Larsen starts out with an exterior scene of a great building providing perspective for the reader. This leads to a close up of Lorella, with several workers behind her dismantling the setting. He pulls back from the characters to show how the room is becoming emptier, echoing how small the original Dragon’s life seems to have become. The vertical panel that starts Page 2 is a great introduction for Jennifer, followed by five horizontal stacked panels showing her conversation with Angel. Notice how the final panel on the page shows a character isolated for emotional impact. There are several pages that do this (3, 6, 8, 9, 20), each giving a character the time for the reader to reflect on what they said or what they are feeling. This is a slick way to give each a moment to shine. Page 3 is funny for the male’s face in the second panel (He’s lucky he didn’t shoot her through the wall with that action!), and the final panel has a reaction that any parent can relate to. Glum looks manic on 4, shocked that someone would betray him (Not that he hasn’t done that himself) and then completely in evil mode for the remainder of the issue. The double-paged splash on 12 and 13 throws the reader into the action dramatically: five characters are in a melee with a numerous amount of mutants, with Dimension-X ships flying about, all on a fully rendered cityscape. Wow! The action is furious and bloody. These intense scenes are intercut with Glum going into an infamous location. Page 14 is my favorite of the issue. Cosmic is not big enough a word to describe what’s shown. The arrival of a character on 18 made my heart soar, the last panel on 19 has my heart racing, and the final panel of the issue has me wondering what trouble has been unleashed. Every page of this book has something interesting to look at, be it a quiet character moment or action that will smack you in the face. Overall grade: A

The colors: Nikos Koutsis does the colors, with Mike Toris providing flats. As with the art, Koutsis and Toris get to do everything with this issue. The book starts with the bland coloring of a medical facility that’s even blander than expected because it’s being dismantled. Jennifer’s first appearance is a bright bombshell because of the costume she’s wearing, continuing the theme that she’s back to life. The third page has muted colors, given the action that occurring in the dawn. Glum’s introduction is fiery for the hostile environment he inhabits and making his moments frenzied. After Glum, the next six pages colors match those of reality, with colors in locations that could be found in any major city. The calm colors are a good set up to the sharp change that comes when the army of villains arrives on the scene and the heroes go into battle mode. These pages go yellow and orange, with splatterings (and that’s the correct word) of red. These shocking pages provide a good contrast to where Glum is, which is colored in technological blues and violets. Excellent work throughout. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, yells, moans, and sounds are Chris Eliopoulous’s contributions to this issue. If one thinks that this isn’t much, then one hasn’t really taken the time to look at what Eliopoulous brings to this book. The dialogue is always easy to read and impressively never covers any key elements of the art. His sounds are stellar, which are in ample evidence during the fight sequences. However, my favorite text in the book comes from Malcolm in the second panel on Page 3: it is a visual match for Malcolm’s face and the action that’s being performed. With the image, it makes me laugh every time I look at it. Overall grade: A

The Funny Pages: Only one story this month, and it has no text. This lack of wordage includes the title of the story and the character, who can only be identified by the inside back cover. Carl Cosmic! is flying over a farm when a thought strikes him. His frustration causes him to do something rash with harsh consequences. It’s a funny, quick piece that has to occur to other heroes besides Carl. Overall grade: B+

The final line: Family and a fractured future come to the forefront in this issue and it’s a winner. Long time readers will enjoy each character getting a major moment and will thrill to Glum’s plotting. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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