In Review: Savage Dragon #234

There's a lot to WOW! about in this issue. Absolutely recommended!

The cover: The Bully Boys have Michael, Jennifer, Angel, and Alex held back to receive a shocking gift from Rapture. The story in Dimension-X comes to a dramatic end in this issue and Erik Larsen has teased it well: the villain is not clearly shown (for obvious reasons) and the overwhelming number of minions makes the heroes’ fate dire. Also having a mound of skulls in the bottom right shows the reader what’s happened to others who’ve crossed Rapture. The coloring is also well done, with the antagonist’s hands white with energy and their strength pales the background around them. So cool. Overall grade: A

The story: “The Blood of the Dragon!” by Erik Larsen has two plotlines running in this issue and both relate to this title. The first has Malcolm start the issue angrily, realizing that his blood could save his wife Maxine back to life. The doctor says it’s pointless because she’s dead, but Malcolm’s not having it. “She not going to get any worse than dead!” Grabbing a pint of the hero’s blood, the doctor runs off.  Getting a phone from a nurse, Malcolm calls Kevin. “I need you to get me something out of the lockbox. There’s no time for that. It’s a matter of life and death–!” The story then moves to Dimension-X where Rapture and her Bully Boys beat down Angel and Jennifer Murphy who are waiting for Michael Dragon and Alex Wilde to return from another dimension. The antagonist possesses Glum’s glove, which will surpasses Alex’s power glove. The two unconscious protagonists are taken away while the villain and her minions await the dimension hopping duo’s arrival. Back in Canada, something major is revealed on Page 6, but I won’t spoil it. It’s surprising, it’s funny, and it’s perfect. Bravo, Mr. Larsen. I thought last issue was a surprise, but this one was better. It solves a major problem and it also solves future ones. My hat is off to you, sir. After this surprise I expected Larsen would have an action story set in Dimension-X. Oh, there’s action, but darned if Larsen doesn’t have something major hit the reader again, this time on 8. The reaction to this action by one character is beautiful. Then some villains that have haunted Dragon over several issues appear on 10, but this time it won’t just be Malcolm that takes them down. My heart soared with the dialogue in the third panel on 12. The action on 13 is about as terrible as anything ever shown in super hero comic, let alone in Savage Dragon. This is followed up by yet another surprise on 15, changing the direction for a character yet again. The ultimate comeuppance occurs on 16 and it had me cheering. This is followed by the start of a rousing action sequence, interrupted by a humorous page, and then ending in heartbreak again. Every twist and turn of this issue is gold. So much happens, all of it unexpected, that writer Larsen deserves some heavy praise. I’m seriously tired after what this story put me through. Overall grade: A+

The art: Erik Larsen gets some golden moments to illustrate from Larsen the writer. The opening page is a full-paged splash that features an angry Malcolm staring at the reader with the two most succinct words to give voice to his expression. I love the speed with which the doctor exits the scene on Page 2. The introduction to Dimension-X starts fantastically with a punch and a body flying. No one does bodies taking a powerful punch better than Larsen. The ending of the action is as strong as its start. Notice how Larsen pulls in tightly to every characters’ face on 4, so that the intensity of what’s being said is magnified; the close-up of the item in the sixth panel is ominous. Rapture’s reveal on 5 is ferocious as she’s got the glove and she’s in her most primal attire. The top of 6 had me extremely happy at what’s revealed and how Larsen shows the character going through some strong emotions: shock, denial, and surprise mixed with hope. The faces in the penultimate panel on 7 pushed me over the top. This happy scene is soon forgotten by the extreme action of 8 that has something jaw-dropping occur. The action starts in the first panel with the majority occurring off panel, but the results are shown on 9. WOW! A full-paged splash is on 10 with six foes flying through a window to attack Malcolm. What follows is a lot of terrific action that had me cheering. What’s happening on 13 is akin to something found in an EC Comic–again, WOW! The surprises on 16 are awesome, as is the realization in the final panel. The visuals on 18 were a nice return to normalcy, with some welcome visual humor. The final page is a hearbreaker, with confirmation in the second to last panel. WOW! That artwork is beautiful and terrible. Have you noticed there’s a lot to WOW! about in this issue? Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: The colors are by Nikos Koutsis with flats by Mike Toris. I’ve been really impressed, and continue to be so, with how colors are used to differentiate the settings. Those of the real world are bright colors, as one would expect. Those of Dimension-X are harsh oranges and yellows. This is a great way to visually remind the reader of where they are in the story without having to begin every page with text for the change of setting. Greens are awesome on the first page, with some great tones put in Malcolm’s face. Introducing this image is the title done in the colors of a classic 1960s Marvel comic. The third page uses oranges and yellows during the action sequences, but look at the colors used for the sounds: blue, yellow, and red. These make the sounds really pop on the page. The change of colors in the sixth panel on Page 4 allows this textless panel to receive the strongest focus. The light greens on 6 made me so happy to see, with the art and the colors telling what’s happened before I read the text. The sounds on 8 are crimson, which one would expect in an action sequence, but this color takes on a new meaning when shown in the final panels on 9. The light pinks on the characters that storm in on 10 suit younger people more than these characters, but that’s the expectation given what they are. Colors are absolutely key to the first three panels on 15, showing the reader what’s occurring. This work is great. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Ferran Delgado is responsible for this issue’s lettering which includes the spectacular title opening, yells, credits, dialogue, scene settings, sounds, screams, whispered dialogue, and the tease for next issue. That opening title is glorious, starting the book off in stupendous style. The yells and screams in this book are strong, but the sounds are off the chart due to so much action occurring. FRAKKA-KOOMM! and all the SPUT!s are my favorites. One character gets to some whispered dialogue and it’s extremely powerful; it draws the reader in closer to the aftereffects of some shocking climaxes. Overall grade: A+

The funnies: G-Man Webcomics by G-Man (aka Mikey G) aka Chris Giarrusso feature a young comic book creator who writes about his own adventures as G-Man. These three pages follow the craze of vegetable comic books. The situation becomes extreme, but I think anyone who’s been reading comics for a while will think of how this applies to other characters. Those who are new to comics will find fun with how publishers and fans react to the books. The final three pages are Giarrusso’s takes on the first three issues of Savage Dragon. I love the style of this art and the colors are perfect. Overall grade: A

The final line: There’s some serious payoff in this issue with so many WOW! moments I was actually tired after I read this book. Even rereading this to write my review I was emotionally drained by what Larsen has done. Action, romance, heartbreak, comedy, and surprises abound. Absolutely recommended. This is my pick for book of the week. 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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