In Review: Savage Dragon #231

The dangers of Dimension-X outshine dangers in Toronto, but there's no denying that this is incredibly readable.

The cover: Malcolm’s head is getting planted violently into the side of a wall, spraying concrete everywhere. He’s going down under the boot of a sex-doll that look’s indifferently at the reader. The point of view of this image is really neat, because if one looks behind the characters the city is drawn from a unique perspective. The only way the buildings can be shown like this is if the action of the characters is on the side of a building. Very cool detail from artist Erik Larsen. Kudos must also be given for the font used for the villain, which has it looking like cliché, and wholly appropriate, 1970s lettering. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the illustration. Overall grade: A

The story: Opening in Chicago, a woman is carrying for a swaddled infant. She tries to get the child to smile, but the baby grabs her finger and won’t let go. The child’s grip is surprisingly strong. Once she frees herself from its grasp, she goes to lay the baby down for a nap. She senses something and the wall explodes as a shark mouthed woman with gray skin bursts through the wall. “Keep your stinking hands off my child!!” The baby is revealed to be an infant Dragon baby. This newcomer takes the child and punches the woman aside. “There. There,” this woman says as she transforms into a beautiful blonde haired woman. “It’s okay, baby, Don’t cry. Mama’s here.” This surprising beginning is left for another issue because writer Erik Larsen moves his tale to Toronto as Maxine plays up to the camera filming her family for a reality show as she goes baby bump to baby bump with her mother who is pregnant with Kevin Gorelick’s baby. Increasing the awkward level is Malcolm’s conversation with Kevin. “Okay…So this is huge. First time dad. Plus — If you and Maxine’s mom actually tied the knot you’d not only be my half-brother but my father-in-law. So, there’s that.” Kevin’s response is terrific. The story then moves to Dimension-X where Alex, Angel, and Jennifer are held captive by Rapture. She has the women held for a very horrific reason. For the comedic moments between Malcolm and Maxine, the scenes in Dimension-X are cringe worthy. One of the goals of a story is to put heroes in terrible situations, and there’s no worse position for these women to be in. The villain of the issue for Malcolm is revealed on the cover — a sex-doll robot that’s killing men and stealing their money. Malcolm soon learns that there’s more than one doll on the rampage, while the trio of women in Dimension-X find themselves confronted with a surprise. This is the first issue since having the family move to Canada that doesn’t have a complete action sequence for Malcolm. There’s a fight, there always is in Savage Dragon, but there’s no resolution to the battle. This issue’s story is part of a larger saga, with the conclusion to come. I’m more than willing to let Larsen tell the tale his way and finish it whenever and however he wants. Overall grade: A

The art: The slow build of the art on the first page leaves the reader unprepared for the splash used for Page 2. Everything about Page 1 screams normal. Though the tight close-up of the last panel is a great silent way to communicate to the reader that a mother’s instinct is alerting the woman that something is wrong. The shark-woman’s entrance on 2 is wonderful: she’s big, powerful, and frightening, the baby’s true visage is revealed, and the debris is fantastic. It gets somewhat depressing to see all the photos inserted or photos manipulated in comics, but Erik Larsen makes his own rubble and it always looks great. The transformation on 3 is subtle between the last two panels and works wonderfully. The ever present cameraman at the Dragon’s apartment is solid reminder that anything that happens there will be aired. In fact, this has me hoping an entire issue of this book will be an actual episode as aired on television. Dimension-X is a visual powerhouse each time it’s shown. It’s first appearance in a long vertical panel on 5 is fantastic; I never get tired seeing Larsen do these distant cosmic shots. The women are in prison, naked, and are about to have something absolutely horrific done to them. Their situation and their nakedness makes them undeniably vulnerable, and I was hoping that the horror would be stopped before it occurred. Alex is visually broken; a reader can recognize this before she speaks. Rapture is an absolute monster, smiling in cruel glee at what’s to happen to the heroines. The action on the penultimate page involving these women was surprising, with my eyes matching theirs in the final panel. The last page is a full-paged splash that was a jaw-dropper of a reveal. Meanwhile, the Sex-Doll has an appropriate, gruesome reveal, with the second panel on 8 making me squirm. Malcolm’s battle with the villain is great, with all the action one wants from a Savage Dragon comic. The character’s best page is on 18, four equal sized panels that show Malcolm in action and not doing well. The visuals on this book are great. Overall grade: A

The colors: The work by Nikos Koutsis with Mike Toris doing flats gives this book a lot of its emotional punch. Notice how the backgrounds on the first page are in pale violets and grays to lull the reader into complacency. The second page begins with an explosion of crimson in the sound effect and harsh oranges and flat yellows on the superpowered character that bursts onto the scene. The blue eyes in the final panel on Page 3 are compelling and beautiful. Malcolm’s sweater is a red that makes him a subject of focus, as are the dark purples on Kevin. The pale violets and pinks for the sex-doll increases her femininity and, as with Page 1, lulls the reader into calm state. Dimension-X has alien coloring with the harsh, sickly violets on Rapture, the muted colors of the women held captive, and the faded coloring on the bandaged individuals that has them blending in with the background, making their numbers seem immeasurable. The sounds have some great colors, with the red used on 8 killing me and the strong teal on 17 making the sound seem as if it’s almost polite as it’s delivered by the sex-doll. This is great work. Overall grade: A

The letters: Welcome aboard, Ferran Delgado, taking over for Chris Eliopoulos, who’s now illustrating full time. Delgado creates scene settings, dialogue, yells, and sounds. The sounds are flat out awesomeness. I like the style of the WROPP! on Page 3 which I don’t recall seeing before on this book. Starting on 14 the sounds kick into overdrive, with there being several on the page and in each panel. Each is given a unique look to make the action unrelenting. I would have to say, though, that the first sound in the final panel on 7 is the one that most readers will remember. I should also give a special shout out to the scene settings which really stand out, being so large and done in that format, with the first letter exceeding the box. Overall grade: A

Funnybook fun: The third part of “Mer-Made In America” featuring Aquaria takes up the final five pages of the book. Adam McGovern provides the script, Paolo Leandri the art, Dominic Regan the colors, with the design by Steve Price. Aquaria takes the back seat in this installment as last issue’s rescued suicide Laura Lanier tells her story to Flo Fleishman. Mermaids are involved, as well as lost time. It’s an okay story, comprised entirely of information, and the visuals are fine, looking reminiscent of the visuals of the 1980s black and white independent boom. Overall grade: C+ 

The final line: The dangers of Dimension-X outshine dangers in Toronto, but there’s no denying that this is incredibly readable. The story has action, laughs, and horrific dangers, while the visuals are outstanding. Grab yourself a copy! 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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