In Review: Savage Dragon #221

The return of the original Dragon to action is something to see!

The cover: Staring down the reader with a steadfast sense of resolve is the one, the only, the original Savage Dragon! I know that several fans of this series have been clamoring for the return of the original Dragon to the series and this big, beautiful close up from Erik Larsen looks to deliver what those fans want. An excellent portrait of the hero, colored excellently, I must add. He’s almost like Harrison Ford, in that he can be smiling on one side of his face and looking absolutely threatening on the other. I love this. Overall grade: A+

The story: Forget the original Dragon for a moment, and remember where Angel Dragon was left last issue. She’s been kidnapped by Glum and taken to his dimension where he promised he would find her mother. Angel’s not happy to be with the madman, obviously, but if there’s a chance that her mother’s still alive…Who could blame her for sticking around? As they search, the villain bombards her with reasons why she should stay with him, like things used to be. She responds with, “That ‘Angel’ wasn’t me and you know it! That was some alternate version of me from another reality!” Glum stops in his tracks when she suggests they continue looking for her mother and counters with “What’s in it for me?…Would it kill you to lift up your skirt every once and a while?” This comment is completely in line for this dispicable character and writer Erik Larsen has someone else retort appropriately to it in a double-paged spread on Pages 2 and 3. The shock of the antagonist’s line is nothing compared to the punch that occurs on these pages. Larsen has Angel respond naturally to who’s before her, but then he brilliantly teases this story along by cutting to what’s going on back on Earth. This is where the cover image comes into play. “Grandpa” Dragon is going to watch Malcolm and Maxine’s kids, since the imps usually tear off a sitter’s arm unintentionally; Grandpa can handle their strength. Once left alone with the tykes, things don’t go the Dragon’s way and only worsen when an unexpected visitor drops by. It’s great to see the Dragon back in action, granted with the kiddies, but it works tremendously well and fits in with his slow integration back into the world. The tension in this issue is built up well by Larsen having almost every page shift from Glum’s dimension to the action on Earth. This makes the reader turn the pages more quickly because he or she will want to see what’s happening. Additionally, Larsen nicely ends each page with a minor cliffhanger. A story that has the reader tearing through the book to see the outcome is one to relish. Overall grade: A

The art: Whenever this series goes into outer space or other dimensions, artist Erik Larsen has a field day creating cosmic awesomeness. Although it’s only seen from a distance in the first panel, the winding rocks, the odd blobs of matter, the star field, and the energy crackling about is a fantastic way to take the reader from the everyday world and propel them into this series. Larsen also draws terrific backgrounds; though one should be looking at Glum and Angel walking, the rubble that they’re traversing is fantastic. The next three panels on the first page clearly show the reader who the characters are and it’s on the double-paged splash of 2 and 3 that another character is introduced and it’s a wowzer! The perspective is great, the action tops, the characters look slick, and that debris outstanding. This is the type of action I miss in modern day hero comics and Larsen makes me feel like I’m thirteen looking at such power on the page. When Dragon is left with the kids it’s pretty funny stuff for Larsen to illustrate; the hero’s reactions to his tiny relatives are great, with 7 being a particular standout. The visitor that comes to see Dragon has a great design and when the pair go into action it’s spectacular. It may be just a little thing, but the pose of the visitor in the second panel on 13 is so cool — it suggests power and grace. How the visitor is dealt with in the second panel on 17 is graphic, but not over-the-top, and what it does in the panels that follow are outstanding. The entrance of the character on the bottom of 17 and the first panel on 18 is magic. The book ends with Dragon meeting up with a familiar and welcome friend, but the last five panels on the page, though tiny, they contain so much emotion, with the final panel being gold. Larsen consistently makes magic with this book. Overall grade: A

The colors: Since the book is fairly equally split between two radically different locations, Mike Toris on flats and Nikos Koutsis on colors have ample opportunity to showcase their abilities in radically different ways. Glum’s dimension is full of bright, offsetting colors that would not be part of Earth: dull yellows, oranges, brown, and pinks comprise this environment. Using colors such as these allow the characters to really pop on the pages, with Glum’s reds and blues and Angel’s patriotic colors and bright yellow hair instant eye catchers. The new character that appears on at this location is also a standout due to clothing worn and not worn. The settings on Earth start out with familiar tones, such as light violets, browns, and yellows in an apartment (Page 7). However, when the visitor arrives the colors go bright, to make this individual hostile and the action strong. Even when the action goes outside, the visitor’s colors have him stand out against beautiful clear blue skies. I also liked how the final two pages have the margins around the panels go dark, suggesting a change in time, location, and tone. Toris and Koutsis are always upping the awesome level on this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, yells, sounds, the visitor’s unique speech font, and screams are crafted by Chris Eliopoulos. His dialogue is always crisp and clear, with characters’ words receiving just the right amount of italicization when someone has stress in their speech. I really like the unique font given to the visitor’s dialogue, which matched his look and intentions. And then there are the sounds. I so love the massive sounds in this book that punch up every action with a sound that reminds the reader of the strength of each blow between battlers. Always top notch work. Overall grade: A

The Funny Pages: Four pages that chronicle The Myth of Mars: Space Barbarian, written by Jim Gibbons, illustrated by Francesco Chiappara, colored by Ryan Hill, and lettered by Joe Pruett. This is a nice introduction to the this historic-science fiction mash-up that will ring strongly in the minds of Edgar Rice Burroughs fans. The story is swift, with plenty of action, the art has got its own cool style unlike anything I’ve seen in other books. the colors capture the settings well, and the letters evoke the past and the alien world with the unique look to the letter s and d. I’ve enjoyed this tease and hope that Gibbons has more to come! To see other Mars’s stories, got to Gibbons’s website at Overall grade: A

The final line: The return of the original Dragon to action is something to see! Entertaining, enjoyable, and explosive. Recommended. 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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