In Review: Savage Dragon #225

100 pages is barely enough space to contain all that lies within!

The covers: Four to find on this two hundred and twenty-fifth extravaganza. The A cover is by Erik Larsen and has the original Dragon buffed up, running toward the reader with a fist held forward. To his right is Malcolm and to the left is Angel. Both looked surprised to see their father restored to his former self. I’m overjoyed to see the original title character back in action and pleased as punch to see the “100 Super Spectacular Pages 100” banner at the top. The B is by Frank Fosco and features Malcolm on a fire escape on the side of a building, looking down on a monster ripping apart a subway car to eat its riders. The logo is big and bold on this in yellow, the Dragon is eye catching, being so close to the reader and being in orange and green, and the citizens’ reactions to the monster are great. This is a big, epic illustration. I wanted this to be a bit brighter, though. The C cover is again by Larsen, this time with several characters in action. The original Dragon levels a punch onto Darklord, while Malcolm recovers from the blow he’s suffered from the villain. In the back lower left Angel reaches out to help her father, unaware that Mr. Glum is behind her, ready to scurry her away. Lots of great looking character and some great action. I’m liking this cover as well. The final cover is a first, a XXX cover by Rafael Kras that’s polybagged. The bag is white with the following words: “Retailer: Remove this outer cover at your own risk!” When removed, the Dragon is found engaged with three women, and I’m going to leave it right there. I’ll admit to finding this funny, because comic book characters are rarely shown in such circumstances. Kras makes the characters look good. Needless to say, I won’t be putting this cover onto Instagram. This cover is $2 more than the other three covers and is worth it. Overall grades: A A, B A-, C A, and XXX A

The stories: The main story of this issue is forty pages long. Written by Erik Larsen, this deals with the fallout from Mr. Glum combining all the multiverse into one universe. Overjoyed at what he’s accomplished, Glum cannot wait to be reunited with the love of his life, Angel, who will now love him again. Before he can leave his setting, he realizes that Darklord will return to his lair eventually and could undo all that he’s accomplished, so he makes plans for the more dangerous antagonist. On Earth, among the bodies of the monsters that were killed last issue, all the characters confront one another with the memories they now have: they recall all their lives that they had in the multiverse, though they’ve never happened on that world. This creates many conflicts, such as Alex remembering that she and Dragon were married and had kids, and Maxine Dragon knowing that Malcolm was married to Tierra. The idea of a character remembering, and feeling, a past that no longer exists could keep Larsen with story ideas for millennia. But there are more immediate worries, such as Darklord realizing that the multiverse is gone and only Earth SD75-30.1 is left. There’s a funny scene on Page 10, which leads to some smackdown, but that takes a pause given the action that begins on 14. What follows is a monstrous showdown, with all the action of Cover C occurring. Page 24 had me cheering, while Pages 29, 32, and 34 left me gobsmacked. My first thought to each of these pages was ‘Larsen can’t do that, can he?’ Yeah, he goes there. Pages 36 – 38 made me feel better about the surprise on 34, and the smile that ends 38 made me realize that it couldn’t end any better. Yet, with this door closed, the door is wide open to explore how the characters — how the world — deals with the memories of what now wasn’t. What a fantastic conclusion and wonderful beginning for the Dragon. This is followed by a three page story by Derek Hunter with the Dragon losing his head in a situation and being told to get with the program: this was a funny read. Next is a one pager titled “Catching Up With Flash Mercury,” by Joe Keatinge. It’s just okay. This is followed by an eight page story written by Larsen that features the return of Freak Force. I’ve always been a fan of this team and enjoyed this too short tale that shows the new Dart’s first day with them. Larsen also writes “Throwdown” which focuses on Angel Murphy and it’s just flat out fun. Flash Mercury returns for another one pager before giving way to a ten page story by Larsen titled “I Faced the Monster From the Murky Depths!” which was teased on the B cover. What starts as a typical monster story takes a neat twist on the final page, which should leave Malcolm thinking first before leaping into action. A reprinting of Graphic Fantasy #1, originally published in 1982, comprises the next 23 pages and it’s a terrific look at how the Dragon began in his first appearance and how much Larsen has grown as a writer. Flash Mercury returns on the final page and it’s, again, just okay. Overall grades: Main Story A+, Derek Hunter 3 pager A-, Flash Mercury — all C-, Freak Force A+, “I Faced” A, and Graphic Fantasy reprint C+

The art: I’m incredibly biased as a reviewer because I really like Erik Larsen’s artwork. He could draw My Little Ponies and I’d probably be ecstatic. Suffice to say, this conclusion to the Glum-Multiverse saga looks great. Before getting to the characters, the settings should be discussed. The backgrounds on this book are chock full of details. I love Larsen’s space exteriors which are filled with all kinds of debris, meteorites, and creatures that have no right existing in a vacuum. The second panel on the first page is small, but contains enough details to fill a full-paged splash. Look at the technology that surrounds Glum in the other panels, it looks completely believable. Even the broken bits on the floor are awesome. A turn of the page shows a partial full-page splash atop 2 and 3. Check out the buildings, in disarray, the bodies that litter the street, and the distant bystanders; once in the “real world” Larsen builds his reality quickly. The city is wrecked after last issue, but this issue does a lot more damage to it, with characters and debris flying about. Page 4 is a full-paged splash that has so much spacey goodness I’m beside myself with joy. Pages 36 – 38 is the last setting to pour over because it’s the most important. After all this character has done and gone through, this was a deserved setting and Larsen makes it glorious. The character work on this book is also tops, with all looking awesome. Larsen often does vertical panels with characters that lack a background to put the focus on them and he has a great one on Page 6. He’s also a master of shrinking the image of a character to give them some emotional punch, as is done with the third panel on 7. And speaking of punch, there’s a whole lot of that in this issue and the action is intense. In addition to the fisticuffs, there are three notable explosions that left me agape. They are massive, dramatic, and each a gut punch. Derek Hunter’s art for his three pager is over the top comedic and absolutely hilarious, with the violent action making me laugh, when it should be making me recoil. The three Flash Mercury one page stories are by Ryan Alexander-Tanner. They look fine, with the visuals suiting the non-super hero character’s adventures, but they’re just not for me. Much better is Nikos Koutsis’s work on the Freak Force story which is sumptuous and stunning. The final page of the story had me pumped up for more from this team and this artist. “Throwdown” is illustrated by Raven Perez and it makes Hunter’s art look restrained. It, too, had me laughing and thinking I wouldn’t mind a one-shot spin-off drawn by Perez. Frank Fosco illustrates the monster tale, which he teased on the B cover, and it’s outstanding. It captures a modern look and that of a classic Marvel comic. Anytime Fosco wants to draw a Dragon outing, I’ll be there with money in hand. The opening splash page is fantastic. The Graphic Fantasy reprint shows Larsen’s first printed work and it’s good, and shows how he was a fan of Marvel comics, especially Jack Kirby, with technology and characters’ punches looking like the King’s. There’s a pin-up on the inside back cover of the Dragon that looks good, by Timothy Green II and I like it. It has a very Moebius feel. Overall grades: Larsen A+, Hunter A+, Alexander-Tanner C, Perez A+, and Fosco A+

The colors: Nikos Koutsis does the colors of the first story, with Mike Toris doing the flats. Mr. Glum’s crimson face makes him an instant source of focus when he appears on a page. The oranges used for the city works in the same fashion, though reversed: the brightly costumed characters stand out against such a color. Darklord is beautiful in cool blues, though he turns a sickening green when angered. The final explosion in the issue is a shocker due to all the red, but it is realistic for what’s occurring. Yellow is also a strong color this issue for Pages 37 and 38. It’s royal and welcome. There’s no colorist credited for Hunter’s story, so I’m going to assume he did the colors. The violets in this story are spectacular, and they become bigger with their lack on the second page. Koutis and Toris return for the Freak Force story and their work looks great, with the peaceful blues providing an excellent transition to the startling oranges of the last page. Mark Englert is the colorist on “Throwdown.” The colors on this are much more realistic than Hunter’s tale, but are just as bold with the exaggerated art to color. “Brenda” had some outstanding work done in this tale. Englert also colors the Monster tale and it’s the darkest tale of the book, but not so dark that the visuals are obscured. Englert walks a fine line with his work to create the night without a misstep. Overall grades: All A+

The letters: Chris Eliopoulos is the letterer for the opening story and he continues to show himself at the top of his game with dialogue, sounds, and yells. His dialogue is always clear to read, even when a character’s text goes to italics for emphasis or someone is yelling. The sounds are spectacular and this issue has several memorable ones: BRAKKA-BA-DOOM!, CHOOM!, FRAKKA-ZAKK!, and SPUT! There’s no credited letterers for Hunter’s tale or the Flash Mercury stories, but they look fine. Ferran Delgado is responsible for the Freak Force story’s text and features a terrific looking title of the team on the opening page. Delgado also does “Throwdown” and the sounds are stellar on this story. Making a final appearance, Delgado does the monster story and it, too, looks great. Larsen is his own letterer on the Graphic Fantasy book and his lettering has improved considerably since. Overall grades: Eliopoulos A+, Hunter A, Flash Mercury B+, Delgado all A+, and Larsen C

The final line: 100 pages is barely enough space to contain all that lies within! A stunning conclusion to several story lines, plus several fun short adventures, and a cornucopia of artistic styles make this the oversized comic bargain of the year. This is how to celebrate an anniversary! Overall grade: A

To order a print or digital copy go to https://imagecomics.com/comics/releases/savage-dragon-225

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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