In Review: Savage Dragon #232

A new villain that's hard to hold and an ally in Dimension-X make this issue of Savage Dragon great.

The cover: Two brawny hands come bursting through a wall to grab Malcolm Dragon. One hand is over the hero’s mouth, while the other reaches out to yank him backwards. This super close-up by Erik Larsen really captures the character’s emotional reaction to being taken by surprise. Malcolm’s light brown eyes look terrific! The colors on this are also slick, with the orange background making the greens and darker oranges on the Dragon stand out. I also like the debris that’s flying about from the hands breaking through the wall. Larsen never disappoints with flying rocks! Overall grade: A

The story: “Enter: The Wraith!” begins in the Dragon apartment where Maxine is moping and the kids are tying to cheer her up. She’s nervous because Malcolm hasn’t come home yet. “That’s the hardest part. Never knowing if Malcolm is coming home. Someday he might not. His dad died on the job.” Kevin is keeping her company and shares some info that he’s just discovered on his phone: Dart broke out of jail to get her kid. Maxine blows this off, still consumed with waiting and waiting and waiting…Writer Erik Larsen then turns to Dimension-X where Michael Dragon is telling Angel Murphy, Jennifer Murphy, and Alex Wilde how his mom, Rapture, came to be in this terrible place. The women shock Michael by telling him that they’re not from Darklord’s labs, they came to this place to find a time machine to bring his father back to life. Just as things are getting interesting, Larsen shows Malcolm washed up on a beach. He’s discovered by two locals who have a very intense knowledge of where they are. Once up, Malcolm makes his way home. The reunion with Maxine and the kids is nice, with hugs all around, though they’re short lived when Jackson decides to imitate one of his favorite heroes. This was a funny sequence, with the reveal atop the building surprising/not surprising. Though I suspected why Jackson was doing what he was doing, I shared Malcolm’s disdain. These scenes are intercut with Dimension-X, following the heroes (with quite the offer) and the villainess. The bulk of this issue, though, follows Malcolm battling the Wraith, who may not be exactly who the title character thinks he is. Their chase is good, the battle good, but the ending fantastically freakish. Okay, that’s a new one for me, and I’ve been reading comics since the 1980s! How the heck is Malcolm going to get out of that one? — literally! The last page also has a shocking cliffhanger for one cast member with witnesses spying something that the reader cannot. Plenty of action and drama for Malcolm, the villain is pretty neat, and the story in Dimension-X continues to grow. Overall grade: A

The art: Maxine is the visual piece of normalcy in this issue’s opening page, with her surrounded by her kids, Kevin, and the now always-present film crew. The look on her face shows that she’s unhappy, and I’ve never seen the kids look so low either. The turn of a page transports the reader to Dimension-X and I absolutely love the wildly bizarre space shots that artist Erik Larsen creates to introduce this locale. I especially love Mr. Glum’s world upside down in this opening panel. The next three panels are a terrific travelogue following the characters as they make their way through the hostile, alien terrain. The close-up of Michael at the bottom of the page is killer — he looks great! The full-paged splash on Page 3 makes it seem as though Malcolm is also on the alien world. A turn of the page reveals he’s closer to home than he thought. The characters that have come upon him are created with very thin linework, extremely thin linework for Larsen, but they look good. They’re not important to the remainder of the issue, so they’re given as much detail as they need. The entire layout of the final panel on the fourth page is fantastic, communicating action without the start or finish of it needed to show the reader. Malcolm’s arrival home looks great, from his family’s initial reaction to the dogpile of hugs he receives. Jackson’s actions had me laughing out loud in the first panel on 9. Rapture’s brief appearance in the issue confirms she’s not one to be trifled with, as her visuals show she can do more than just beat someone up. The new villain of the issue is a great combination of comical and bizarre in design. He can look threatening in one panel, but then almost too silly to be a threat. Larsen does a great job in making him an individual that the reader can’t exactly get a solid grasp on (Is he a good guy or bad guy?) until the action on 18 occurs. The aftermath of the battle relies heavily on the visuals to show the hero’s conundrum and it’s a doozy! Amplifying the tension is the final page which contains an awesome What The–?! panel. These visuals never fail to entertain. Overall grade: A

The colors: The interiors of the hero’s apartment are passive in off pinks and yellows. This allows all the characters to really pop out, even ordinary Maxine. Dimension-X continues to be a visual delight with constantly strong colors, such as reds, oranges, and yellows. The ladies blend in with these colors, but Michael stands out with his emerald flesh. The sky on Page 4 is beautiful in baby blue and makes me want to go to Canada! The next four pages cut back and forth between Earth and Dimension-X with the colors telling the reader where they are before the text begins. The dull violets on the Wraith give him a dead feeling, which adds to his persona. The energy set off on 18 is great with blues and whites dominating. This coloring matches that on the final page, but for a, possibly, different reason. I’m always fond of looking at work by Mike Toris on flats and Nikos Koutsis on colors. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dialogue, yells, the story’s title, the book’s credits, sounds, and a whisper are letterer Ferran Delgado’s contributions to this issue. The third page has got some stellar work on the book’s title, with the credits harkening back to comic books’ golden age. The dialogue from the newcomers on Page 4 comes close to hilariously overpowering the illustrations, which makes their speech even funnier. Maxine’s yell when her husband arrives home is heartfelt and when Jackson gets into trouble looks as loud as any concerned mom would get. It’s Page 18 that steals the show, with an incredible sound and a terrific looking yell. Overall grade: A

The Funnies: Four strips appear on the first page: “Berkely Mews” by Ben Zaehringer which made me laugh, “Moonbeard” by James Squires that may have crossed a line, “Gosh Is Dead” by Seitzer & Pruett which really made me laugh, and “Dizzy Dramas” by Joe Bowers which wonderfully channels the look and punchline of classic newspaper strips. Aquaria finishes up its four part story this issue. Adam McGovern provides the script, Paolo Leandri the art, Dominic Regan the colors, and Steve Price the design. The conclusion is cool, with opportunities for more adventures, the art reminiscent of the early 1980s alternative press, and the colors perfect for the underwater environment. I’d dive back in for more of Aquaria. Overall grade: A

The final line: A new villain that’s hard to hold and an ally in Dimension-X make this issue of Savage Dragon great. Action, laughs, and drama continue to make this series one of the best published books available. 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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