In Review: Savage Dragon #230

There's money to be made by the Dragon family, but at what price?

The cover: There’s no peace for Malcolm, even while he’s wearing his Christmas sweater. The Dragon tumbles though a wall into his living room as he fights off five white power thugs. His children, playing with a toy train on the floor, and their mother Maxine, who’s putting decorations on the tree, look up calmly at what Malcolm is doing. Is this just another day in the Dragon household or is there another reason why they look unconcerned? You won’t know until you read this issue! This cover by creator Erik Larsen introduces the hero and his family to the reader and what he has to fight against in this month’s installment. It’s not holly jolly, but it is cool. Overall grade: A

The story: Maxine is looking at the reader with absolute joy on her face on the first page, and it’s not because she and Malcolm are being intimate: it’s because Walden Wang has contacted them to follow the Dragon family around for a reality television series. Malcolm is against the idea, Maxine is for it, and the kids’ don’t get a vote, though they all “wanna” be on TV. “It’s a million dollars, Malcolm! That’s life-changing money! We could buy a house! You wouldn’t have to fight bad guys to pay the rent!” Maxine explains, but Malcolm is still not keen on the idea. Meanwhile, Kevin and Mei are purchasing him some new clothes. He goes to kiss her but she says, “Not here, Kevin. No public displays of affection. Save that for home. In public — eyes are everywhere. Act professionally.” Kevin is fine with that, though one has the feeling this subject is going to come up again. On Page 3 Maxine can’t keep her hands off Malcolm and on 4 the reader is taken back to Dimension-X to show that Alex, Jennifer, and Angel are finally getting a moment to relax on their alien world. How long do you think writer Erik Larsen will let that last? A turn of the page and the question is answered. There’s plenty of fun as Walden and his crew meet the family, as well as a good surprise on 13 that might change Malcolm’s opinion on getting filmed. Kevin and Mei join the Dragon family for Christmas where one revelation is beaten out by another. This drama is fun, but what’s happening to the ladies in Dimension-X takes a big turn with a surprising reveal on the final page. Once again, Larsen is keeping the reader on the edge of his seat wondering how the heroes will get out of this pickle! Overall grade: A

The art: After what Maxine has been happy with in the previous two issues, the first page full-paged splash of her, in that pose, with those words, did have me thinking that an intimate moment was going to occur. A turn of the page and it becomes a discussion at dinner with the family; that was a nice fake-out by artist Erik Larsen. Considering the family is just having a conversation at the table, Larsen moves the point of view around to keep things visually interesting. Notice in the fourth panel that Larsen shows the floor as Maxine is mentioning the money they could make; a good reminder that they’re not living in the most of expensive apartments. The kids’ reactions in the fifth panel is perfect. I like the focus on Kevin and Mei, with Kevin getting the spotlight in his new clothes. Readers should take note of all the bags that the pair has; this could be foreshadowing money issues. There’s a great visual joke on 4 and I would like to thank the artist for not showing that character standing up. Walden Wang’s design is great: short, young, and with a big mouth. He’s exactly what one would think of for a producer of reality shows. What happens to him on 8 is funny, but what happened to Tyrone make me laugh out loud. 9 and 10 is double-paged splash of Malcolm punching Nazis while Maxine looks after the kids. I love when Larsen has bodies tumbling in every possible direction, and that’s definitely happening here. The bottom of Page 11 is another great action panel with the victim’s clothes dictating he deserves that response from Malcolm. The fourth panel on 13 has a calm response from the Dragon and I’m glad that he’s shown that way — made him look like a stronger character. There’s another good visual joke at the top of 16, but it’s beat out by the reaction by a character at the bottom of the same page. I’ve not mentioned the women trapped in Dimension-X fighting all kinds of creatures, but it’s the highlight of the book for me. Yes, the women are nude, but as I’ve said before, that’s in line with other classic action tales, such as John Carter. Where these women end up is a shock and doubly so by who turns up on the final page, and that character looks fantastic! Familiar, yet different. What can’t Larsen draw? Overall grade: A

The colors: Nikos Koutis, with Mike Toris doing flats, produce the colors for this issue. It’s impossible not to be drawn into Maxine’s eyes on the first page. Notice how they’re not just one color, but a beautiful blending of colors. The second page doesn’t have any bright colors on the page during the table conversation. This is a subtle way to show that the family can’t even afford bright colors in their current situation. Kevin stands out on any page he’s on with his gorgeous violets. Dimension-X continues to be a yellow-orange nightmare, with gray humanoids causing trouble for the ladies. Walden shows himself to be ultra trendy with his green hair and matching vest: an oddball, but appropriate, choice for the character. When the Dragon family sits down for Christmas, Koutis and Toris hit all the right marks for the colors of the season. Overall grade: A

The letters: The text of this book contains dialogue, yells, screams, sounds, and an almost silent utterance which Chris Eliopoulos is responsible for creating. The screams and yells make the action of the visuals bigger, while the sounds are tremendous in all the festivities involving fisticuffs. Want to make this book even more fun? Read the sounds aloud, you won’t regret it. I want to call attention to the quiet utterance in the second to last panel on Page 8. As a father of two girls, I “heard” those words in exactly the right tone because of their size and what was occurring in the panel. Well done! Overall grade: A

The Funnybook pages: Part Two of Aquaria’s “Mer-Made in America” is a six page story scripted by Adam McGovern, illustrated by Paolo Leandri, colored by Dominic Regan, and designed by Steve Price. The story has some fun puns that most comics today avoid, but I loved them. The story progresses nicely and ends with a solid tease. The art and lettering reminded me of the Black and White Independent Boom of the eighties: some good layout, but in need of tightening up in style. Still, this was an enjoyable addition to this issue. Overall grade: B-

The final line: There’s money to be made by the Dragon family, but at what price? Not to mention things go extremely dark for the women trapped in Dimension-X. The characters are always evolving, the action is always solid, and the visuals are always good. The Savage Dragon is consistently one of the best hero comics on the market. 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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