In Review: Savage Dragon #233

If you think comic books don't have any surprises left, you haven't read Savage Dragon #233.

The cover: In a print ad, a topless Malcolm has shaving cream on his face, while wife Maxine, who’s sitting on right shoulder, has the same shaving cream in her crotch. She’s holding a razor ready to take care of the gel as she sports a slight smile. She’s only wearing a pink tank top that reads “Bald is Beautiful.” The look on each character’s face is funny enough, but Maxine’s top and the location of the foamy gel send this over the top. The AS SEEN ON TV sticker also adds to the humor. This looks to be a funny issue from writer and artist Erik Larsen. Overall grade: A

The story: “Grim Reality” begins in Dimension-X, checking in on how the trio of women, Angel Murphy, Jennifer Murphy, and Alex Wilde, are faring now that they’ve been rescued by another Dragon. The foursome is battling a horde that wants revenge on Mr. Glum, but not finding him has them taking out their rage on the heroes. The battle goes quickly and the victors decide to take the losers’ flying cars to explore the world further. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Maxine lies unconscious on the floor before her three children, Tyrone, Jack, and Amy. Amy’s on the phone with dad, who’s conversation comes to a quick conclusion after some graphic fallout from the previous issue’s battle. The doctor’s reaction in the second panel on Page 8 is as honest as character dialogue gets. The drama spreads to another pair of characters with a somber comment and reaction at the end of 9. Page 11 returns a famous Larsen team to this series. What they’re doing is justified and what they learn has them inching closer to helping some individuals in need of assistance. During this chaos the Dragon family has their reality show debut. This should be a time of joy, but something major occurs. I’m not using hyperbole: this is major. The ending of this issue is a jaw-dropper. Damn. Erik Larsen, how could you? Overall grade: A

The art: This issue has got a lot of characters in the mix, allowing artist Erik Larsen to show his range. The book opens with classic comics action fare, with the ladies and Dragon beating down aliens. The opening splash page looks as though it came out of the 1960s. The heroes are laying out the smack and the bad guys are flying backwards. No one in comics does characters reacting to a punch better than Larsen. Even after the action stops, notice how the battle is teased to continue with the final panel on Page 3. The first panel on 4 is a brutal one with Maxine face down on the floor surrounded by her young children. It doesn’t matter that the kids have fins on their head, the image of their mother surrounded by them is a gut punch. Malcolm’s situation would be funny, if it wasn’t for the dramatic double-paged splash on 6 and 7. WOW! The aftermath of this action is graphic and Larsen makes it realistic with the doctors’ responses. The speed of events on 9 is great. One would expect the newcomers to the scene to be quick, but their speed is almost superhuman. The look on the face of the final character on the page stuck with me for the entire issue. The full-paged splash on 11 is awesome: that’s an entrance! To see the characters in action is fantastic and I was thankful to see each character get their own panel to showcase their strength. The power of Page 19 is amazing. The illustrations are so good, the text only intensifies what they show. The final two panels on the page left me gobsmacked. After the gut kick on 19, look what Larsen does on the final page. It begins with a highly detailed close-up of a character, it pulls back to show the state of the character, and then shows who’s speaking to the familiar individual. As news is given about Page 19, the art loses some of its detail; it’s still recognizable, but it’s become simpler. It’s as if the world has gone out of focus for the receiver of the news. What’s before a person’s face doesn’t matter compared to what’s been said. Very, very cool. Overall grade: A

The colors: Nikos Koutis creates this issue’s colors with Mike Toris doing the flats. Dimension-X stands apart from other scenes in this issue due to its harsh coloring, with heavy oranges and yellows. This gives those pages an alien feel, reminding the reader that the heroes aren’t on Earth. Page 4 is on Earth and the pale skin of Maxine stands out against the wooden floor. I like that Malcolm is in a setting with perfectly cool blues, which any reader will associate with this environment. The colors on 6 and 7 are startling, which makes the action doubly shocking. The blues that appear on 19 are painful to look at, helped in no small part by the red used for one person’s outburst. When the news is given in the last panel, take note how the colors become lighter than they began on the page. Again, insinuating that what the character sees is going out of focus. Neat. Overall grade: A

The letters: The opening lettering is absolutely fantastic. The story’s title and the credits give this book a strong early 60’s feel. I also like the arrow in the bottom right corner, egging on the reader to continue reading. The sounds are awesome during the fights and grotesque and sad when they become dramatic. I love SKRA-THOOOM! Ferran Delgado’s work on this issue is just flat out cool looking. Overall grade: A

The Funnies: The seven page story “Bedlam on Bridge-World” is written by Larsen, drawn by Ben Bishop, colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, and lettered by Delgado. This features the introduction of Switchblade, a hero who’s trying to take down a familiar looking character who’s vowed to destroy Bridge-World. There’s a lot of action, good dialogue, and the visuals are slick. The art is enjoyable and the colors are gorgeously bright. If a reader is paying attention, this story will remind them of Page 18. I’m all for more Switchblade stories. Overall grade: A

The final line: If you think comic books don’t have any surprises left, you haven’t read Savage Dragon #233. Damn, Larsen went there. I was surprised, shocked, saddened, and am left wondering ‘Now what?’ This issue’s finale will have the series spinning into uncharted territory. Hold onto something, folks, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! 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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