In Review: Savage Dragon #222

Surprises from several characters in this issue, while the action continues on an epic level.

The covers: Two covers to pick up if you’re as agile as the Dragon to get them. The Regular cover shows Malcolm trying to save Marsha Bradley from the flames that are surrounding them, as well as the monstrous flaming hands shooting through the floor! Nice 3-D effect from Erik Larsen, with the hero’s massive fist close to the reader, as if he trying to punch his way out through the ceiling. The colors are incredibly bright, with the logo in a yellow that matches the flames around the pair, completely circling the twosome in warm hues. Also neat to see is the light violet on Marsha, which stands out nicely against the yellows. The copy I picked up at my local comic book store didn’t not have these colors on it: it was in black and white with only the title and the Image logo in red. I’ve never seen a black and white variant cover for Savage Dragon before, so I tweeted someone who told me that it was, indeed, a variant. Don’t get me wrong, I love the colored cover, but I really enjoy seeing an artist’s original pencils and inks, and I do like this cover. Overall grades: Regular A and Variant A+  

The story: Erik Larsen’s tale opens with a peek into what’s happened to last issue’s villain, that’s accompanied by Malcolm stating, “There’s a turf war underground — demonoids, ants, trolls, lava creatures and whatnot are fighting over territory…It’s only a matter of time before we’ve got a full-scale invasion on our hands.” The story then moves to Angel bringing her mother Jennifer up to speed with what’s she missed, having been frozen in a tube for seventeen years. Jennifer’s only concern is Dragon: she’s still in love with him. She wants to see him and Angel will help. And where is the Dragon? He’s having a questionable moment after having an enjoyable moment. He tells Alex that Jennifer is alive, which upsets her. “You’ve made your choice, Dragon — several times — and I’m always on the losing end. I know how this story ends.” That’s a pretty harsh comment from her, but she is right: every time she gets together with Dragon, he goes off with someone else. He tells her that he’s not going to do that, “But I do need to talk to her.” I’m glad Larsen is addressing this, because Alex has been thrown under the Dragon’s emotional bus several times and she does deserve better treatment. Where their conversation goes is left to the reader’s imagination because the story then turns to a building that should be condemned, where someone is about to do something unspeakable to a child. In the opening to the letters page Larsen states, “I may be wandering into some previously unexplored territory…writing and drawing some subject matter that may have you shaking your head or questioning both of our sanity.” This story does have a few of those moments, with Maxine making a revelation to another character, but it’s not really that big surprise, given how she’s been acting in earlier issues. This book has been going for twenty-five years, and it’s neat to see that Larsen wants to try some things that he’s not done before. Readers constantly want something new in their books, so kudos for Larsen to state that’s what he’s going to do. The remainder of the book deals with Marsha Bradley and what she may, or may not, be, as well as Dragon and Jennifer meeting. There’s plenty of action and plenty of drama, plus a creator says he wants to do something a little different. My hat’s once again off to writer Larsen. Overall grade: A

The art: Pages 2 and 3 have the tall, skinny vertical panels that artist Erik Larsen has been using lately for Angel and they’re great. Such a format would seem limiting in what can be placed image-wise, but Larsen expertly moves between both characters during their conversation, pulling in for intense moments and pulling back to allow for all the exposition that has to be delivered to released Jennifer. Page 4 has a scene that’s similar to several panels that have been in Savage Dragon for years, though this is a bit more detailed. It’s not shocking, given as how such subject matter has essentially been shown before. So, again, kudos to Larsen for just drawing the scene for what it is. The shocking page of the book was 5 given the text and what’s being attempted — that had me taken aback. Larsen illustrates this as a nightmare brought to life. Thankfully, a surprise atop 6 changes everything, but Larsen isn’t done with the reader and the third panel rivals the shock of any ghastly creation from EC Comics. The book isn’t just full of shock and awe, there’s also a very humorous sequence involving the three li’l dragons. Malcolm enters an action sequence in a glorious full paged splash. He looks great, but look at how Larsen makes this page really explode with speed lines and debris of every shape and size flying about him. The menace that Malcolm battles is unexpected, on two fronts, and packs a lot of electricity. The girl talk on 11 was some visual fun, as I can’t recall time ever spent like this in this series, though the ending of this scene came as a surprise. There’s a surprise team up on a full paged splash on 16 that was the definition of heroic and I hope it leads to future pairings. The visuals on this book nicely span the gamut from dramatic to heroic. Overall grade: A

The colors: The flats on this book were done by Mike Toris with Nikos Koutsis doing the colors. The work done really helps the emotions of the characters. The first page is in a prison and is shaded slightly to suggest that it’s separated from the real world, while also suggesting that darkness is coming. The conversation between Angel and Jennifer is shaded as well, because it is night, but it’s also symbolic as to how Jennifer is behind everyone else for being gone for so long. The dark colors continue onto Page 4 to show that it’s night at this location as well. If I hadn’t had been so absorbed by the story I might have paid more attention to the use of colors for dialogue balloons on Page 5, which give a major clue to something…Oranges and yellows spring to life when Malcolm goes into action, with blue emerging to assist him. 18 and 19 feature the brightest colors of the book, as two individuals have a conversation that’s long overdue; the colors really bring a sense of renewal to the proceedings. Overall grade: A

The letters: Chris Eliopoulos brings dialoge, sounds, yells, and screams to life in this book. His dialogue font is extremely easy to read, and when it uses italics it’s so much easier to hear where characters are putting stress in their speech. The sounds on this book continue to look spectacular, with SPRITZ!, WRAMM!, and FRAKKA-ZAKK! being extremely memorable. Overall grade: A

The Funny Pages: This issue features an adventure of Mars, who was introduced last month. This five page story, written by Jim Gibbons, is titled “Only the Strong” and shows the title character going to great lengths to acquire something. It’s very much molded in the Edgar Rice Burroughs’s vein of science fiction, which is but one reason why I liked it. The art and letters are by Andrew McClean, who also did the back cover. I really like this style, which reminds me of the Mars twelve issue series by Mark Wheatley and Marc Hempel from 1984. There’s a terrific visual surprise on the final two pages that makes this story cosmic. The colors are by Ryan Hill and they make the setting alien with cool blues, bright greens, and technological yellows. I would love to see Mars: Space Barbarian get his own series. Overall grade: A

The final line: Surprises from several characters in this issue, while the action continues on an epic level. Savage Dragon continues to put readers through the wringer with its heart and giant green fists. 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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