In Review: Savage Dragon #240

The phrase is overused, but not in this case: this story changes everything about this series. 

The cover: Malcolm Dragon and Freak Force look to be engulfed by demonoids that are attacking the people of Toronto. This is how last issue ended and Erik Larsen reminds the reader of this with his action packed cover. The heroes look great and the creatures look monstrous. More, please! I also like the colors, with the oranges of the villains dominating, which puts the heroes in a, seemingly, weaker position. Overall grade: A 

The story: The battle for Toronto is on. As Malcolm beats down each foe he tells his daughter Amy to find her mom. “Make sure mommy’s okay.” The child rushes off clutching her infant sister Maddy. Erik Larsen leaves the children’s plight to show how individual Freak Force members are dealing with the never ending onslaught. Heck, even Scourge is taking out the demonoids. “This city belongs to Scourge! I decide who lives and dies! The city is under my command. And I will slay any intruder who dares to defy me!” This seems like it will be nothing but a slugfest of an issue until something is revealed on Page 8. Yeah, this changes everything. This is not something I’ve ever encountered in a hero book and it’s incredibly unsettling and horrific. The action taken on 10 is incredibly true to the characters and I like how the action continued with others on the pages that followed. The reveal in the fourth panel on 12 is brutal and will obviously change this character to the core. Just when one thinks this can’t get any worse, there’s a reveal on 13 that stops a character dead in their tracks. Then there’s an even worse OH NO! moment on 14 and 15. Larsen is hammering home the drama in this funny book. The final page summarizes where the leads have ended up and shows that everything has changed. Now that phrase gets used a lot in all forms of fiction, but, seriously, everything has changed by the end of this issue. This is not your typical light comics fare. Overall grade: A+

The art: Erik Larsen the artist has much to illustrate the issue, chief among his duties is to create a the mob of demonoids attacking the heroes. The first page is a full-paged splash that shows Malcolm in the classical hero pose, his clothes torn apart due to his battling this mob. He looks fierce as he swings away. Behind him flying demonoids pollute the sky, Barbaric is slammed to the ground, and his two daughters try to avoid the chaos. It’s one hell of an opening and it’s only Page 1. A turn of the page reveals a double-paged splash showing the hell Toronto is going through: even more demonoids, even more heroes, and even more bodies. And Larsen creates a detailed city backdrop that’s getting destroyed. This is budget busting if it were a live action movie. The fourth page shows the members of Freak Force in action under this onslaught, before moving on to the heroes getting pummeled and the Dragon children looking for their mother in five equal sized horizontal panels. Scourge’s entrance into the story atop 6 is great. Page 7 has twelve equal sized square panels showing tight close-ups of what each hero is doing, ending with the Dragon children discovering their mother. Without question, Page 8 is the most horrific thing seen in this series in years and it will make every reader gasp. The horrors of this page are left momentarily for an updating of what the heroes are doing on 9. 10 is run entirely on emotion and panic, with the final panel of the page being painful and heroic. 12 continues to run on emotion, with the close-ups gut punches. 14 is monstrous, there’s no other way to put it, because now the reader is in a position to actually witness the horror they were spared earlier. It’s shocking and justifies the actions that follow it. The actions on 18 begin with a vertical panel that matches the direction of a character and leads to some massive carnage. The images on 19 are the realistic after effects of all the hell that’s been endured, but it’s the imagery that’s found on 20 that will choke up the reader. The progressive pulling back from the characters signal the change that’s discussed on the pages. These are outstanding visuals. Overall grade: A+

The colors: With all the action in the visuals it falls upon Nikos Koutsis, with Mike Toris doing flats, to direct the reader where to look. There’s something to be seen in every inch of this book, but the story dictates where the reader should initially go and this pair guide the reader correctly. The opening page has the title demanding focus for its bold lettering before the colors of Malcolm dominate. The oranges of the demonoids on 2 and 3 are overwhelming, but they’re not blanket colored; every one of the creatures stands out with intricate shades. Having these monsters against a yellow sky makes them really stand out on the pages. Malcolm is a focus due to his green skin. Scourge catches attention due to his violet colors. I love the variety on Page 7 that has each character get a colorful moment. The darker colors on 8 exacerbate the horror perfectly. Notice how the horror of what’s occurred shades Malcolm’s face in doubt on 10. When the horror is about to repeat on 14 the darker colors return, but soon brighten with the arrival of a character. Electricity gets a powerful shot of white and blue when it comes exploding onto the page on 16. Notice how the final page uses dark colors not only to show it’s night, but the state of mind of the narrator. Well played, gentlemen. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Ferran Delgado’s work begins with an explosive title on the first page that matches the action that follows. He also creates in this issue narration, dialogue, the book’s credits, yells, sounds, screams, whispered speech, and the tease for next issue. There’s a lot of yelling and screaming in this issue and each receives an appropriately shaped and sized utterance so the reader may correctly hear it. The whispered speech pulls the reader closer into the text not only to read the words but to hear the heartbreak in the speaker. The sounds are my personal highlights, with those on Page 7 being a fantastic cornucopia of earsplitting noises. Overall grade: A+

The funnies: Knight Watchmen in “Doom in Dimension-X!” is a six and a half page throwback to older comic tales, similar to those of a particular Dark Knight. The story is by Bill Schelly, pencils and letters by Mike Worley, inks by Terry Beatty, colors by Adam Pruett, and flat assists by Kenjie Dabon. I love this kind of story and these types of visuals. The villain is funny, the dialogue pitch perfect, and the actions heroic and classy. The visuals just make me smile every time I look at them. How could one not like a story with the line, “Wa-Hoo! Just call me Jerry, the Ape Boy!”?  More, please. The back cover features the more traditional one page of funnies Dragon has promoted. First up is Eat More Bikes by Nathan Bulmer which has an honest reason for something, but didn’t make me laugh. The art was also too simple for me. Heck If I Know Comics by Charlie Higson takes a really bizarre turn that made the freak within me giggle deliriously. I liked the visuals as well. The final toon is a one panel strip titled Goofie Gags by Vic Pazmiño that seems as though it comes from the 1930’s for its look and gag. This succeeded as a strip from an older time. Overall grades: Knight Watchman A+, Eat More Bikes D+, Heck If I Know Comics A+, and Goofie Gags A

The final line: This story is a thunderclap in the face of superhero comics that don’t change. The visuals are epic and gut wrenching. The colors bold and dramatic. The letters energetically engage the reader. The phrase is overused, but not in this case: this story changes everything about this series. This ain’t no funny book. 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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