In Review: Savage Dragon #229

Drama and danger are always equally matched with outstanding visuals in a Dragon book.

The cover: Maxine picks Malcolm’s severed finger from her hair on this puzzling cover from Erik Larsen. The bloody digit has left some blood in her hair and on her face. This scene does indeed occur in this issue, but how so will be nagging the back of the reader’s mind as they make their way through this story. A freaky, funny, grotesque, and honest cover. Overall grade: A

The story: Stranded in Dimension-X, Alex, Angel, and Jennifer give a quick summary as to why they’re in that bleak location and what they’ve discovered, which includes someone stealing all the tubes from Darklord’s hideout that contained women who were pregnant with superpowered babies. Angel realizes that if this unknown force took the tubes, then they might have used Darklord’s time machine which would allow them to get back home. It’s at this point when a threat rears its head. Back on Earth, Maxine and her mother Mei are discussing the older woman’s relationship with Kevin from the previous issue. Maxine’s comments are pointed, but her mother fires back with some information that no child wants to hear. Meanwhile, Malcolm and Kevin are out and about with the kids in some snowy woods. They’re talking about Mei as well, with Malcolm telling his friend he’s not going to tell him how to lead his life. That’s when a massive tree falls down in front of the pair, courtesy of the children. The fourth page shows Maxine and Malcolm in a very intimate moment, or at least the end of one, mirroring the memorable sequence from last issue. Writer Erik Larsen nicely captures the slice of life moments for his characters, with drama building because of relationships and not because of the newest monster to appear. It’s neat to see the three women stranded in Dimension-X, as their plight is extremely readable and foreshadows bigger worries to come in the future. Maxine gets some news that she never wanted to hear again, though it does have a positive impact in one regard. There is a monster in this issue, and its chaos pulls Malcolm into fighting it. It’s a solid action sequence and nicely leaves the door open for more. This is a slick combination of drama and heroics. Overall grade: A 

The art: Erik Larsen’s visuals are a little different this issue, but still strong. I’m a huge fan of the look of Dimension-X and it continues to look like a cosmic hellhole, making the women trapped there all the more eye catching. The creatures are particularly grotesque with their huge toothy mouths and their pulpy skin. Page 5 contains a large panel that shows the women in action and they look great. The panel at the bottom of Page 2 is very funny, with Maxine’s hair blowing backwards and her cup jumping from her hand in reaction to what her mother is saying. There’s also another explicit sex scene in this issue, which is drawn well, but it’s the non verbal reaction by Maxine in the second panel that had me laughing: I particularly like that the dialogue balloon that contains it is equally shaky. Maxine’s got the perfect reaction on 6, which turns into something else entirely on 8. The entrance on 10 is a full-paged splash and it looks great; this might sound odd, but the work on this character’s feet complete its otherworldly feel. What this individual does in the first panel on 15 is freaking awesome! That’s a death I’ve not seen before in any comic book! What happens on 18 is an EWWW! moment, but completely fits the situation if such violence were to occur. The final page returns to Dimension-X and the first panel definitely has a John Carter Warlord of Mars feel to it; after all, in those classic tales the leads were nude, so why not here as well? I also have to give mention to outstanding cross hatching in the background — it makes the location completely cosmic. Overall grade: A

The colors: Dimension-X opens and closes this book and the colors by Nikos Koutsis, with flats by Mike Toris, give this setting a constant burnt red and orange color scheme, as if the location has been burned a million times over. Assigning this locale those colors also allows the heroines to stand out well with their skin tones and bright costumes. The second page has the traditional colors one would associate with a diner, but look at the slick work done in the last panel — light blues for the background which carry over to the snowy setting on Page 3. The next five pages employ pale colors to have the characters stand out against them, while starting on 9 the colors go violet to connote the evening. These colors allow to pop out on the street and in the fancy eatery high in the city. The colors of this book allow for a smooth read. Overall grade: A

The letters: Chris Eliopoulos is responsible for this book’s dialogue, yells, and sounds. There’s a lot of action in this book and there are several panels that contain a lot of dialogue, but Eliopoulos never steps over the imagery that’s necessary to tell the story. The last dialogue balloon on Page 2 is full of several italicized words that show the emphasis the character is placing on her speech. The use of italicized words makes the visual of the listener very funny. The throw down that occurs in the last half of the book has plenty of sounds, but I want to put some focus on the look of a particular sound on Page 4. Visually, it shows the reader what’s just occurred before one has the opportunity to look at the visual. It’s fitting, but it returns on 17. This made me laugh because the look of the sound on 17 made me think it sounds like the one on 4. If it does, that’s really funny. Overall grade: A

Aquaria: This five page story is the “funnybook” closer for this issue. The script is by Adam McGovern, the art by Paolo Leandri, colors by Dominic Regan, and the design by Steve Price. The heroine is fun, I like her Hispanic background and her thoughts of school, but the art is dicey at times. I like how Leandri showed the transformation on the second page and the point of view of the image in the phone is good. It’s the human version of Mirta that’s inconsistent, with her nose missing or overly shaded making her stick out. That said, I wouldn’t mind reading another one of these tales. Overall grade: B-

The final line: Drama and danger are always equally matched with outstanding visuals in a Dragon book. This is a good entry issue for new readers and another exceptional installment for veteran readers. The Savage Dragon is sensational. 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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