In Review: Savage Dragon #238

A Dragon secret goes public and wife Maxine has a breakthrough.

The cover: Malcolm takes a step back at all the number of hands that grasp at him from the ground. His shock would mirror that of the reader’s given the multitude of hungry hands. The bottom of the cover contains the title of this issue’s story: “Out For Blood!” This is the perfect image for what this book is all about. The harsh red background allows the olive of Malcolm’s skin to stand out, plus this mustard color shirt draws the eye. Nice. Overall grade: A

The story: Maxine feels guilty that Angel Murphy is in terrible condition from her battle with Scourge after sending her out into battle wearing one of her old school uniforms. Malcolm tells her it’s not her fault, it’s the villain’s, but it doesn’t help how she feels. A doctor comes into the room with some bad news, “I’m afraid Miss Murphy is fading fast. We haven’t got much time left. Miss Murphy is missing the front of her skull — her entire face and a large section of her brain. How she’s even alive defies medical science. You can regenerate body parts. She can’t. You managed to bring your wife back from the brink — If you have any more miracles left in you — now would be an excellent time to perform one.” This is where Erik Larsen’s story really begins to take some neat twists. Malcolm brings her back as he brought Maxine back from the brink, but the story leaks to the press and is reported on the news. Soon people are clamoring for his miracle blood, even some familiar foes arrive to take the fluids from him. While Malcolm is dealing with this horde of villains, Maxine is at a bachelorette party, where temptation really dangles before her. I’ve always enjoyed the action sequences in SD, and enjoy them in this issue, with the Dragon kids again joining in to make things wild, but it was Maxine’s story that really was the better read. She’s been shown to be a sex addict for several issues and this party causes her to make a decision. She’s taking steps this issue to continue a change and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens to her. I used to consider her a fairly one note character, though important to Malcolm and his children, but this mind set she’s found herself in has become extremely interesting after this issue’s events. I really want to see how she acts in future issues. Overall grade: A-

The art: The full-paged splash that opens this issue has artist Erik Larsen visually showing who is going to be a major player this issue. I like that Maxine looks really frail, though all Larsen has done is draw her from the waist up, clutching her left arm with her right hand, against a white background. She looks as if she could break down. A turn of the page shows Maxine with Malcolm, who is legless, in the hospital, looking upon Angel, who’s missing a limb and has her face covered in bandages. This shows the reader each character’s standing at the moment as well as rendering a very detailed hospital room. As the doctor’s words become more serious about Angel, Larsen pulls in closer to the figure to stress his words’ importance. The full-paged splash on page 4 is great and I like that the character’s nose is hidden by something, giving the image a stronger sense of reality in the moment, rather than showing everything clearly. Kevin and the kids’ page is hilarious and has me wondering how anyone else could serve these tots of terror. Page 7 shows a character that will remind readers of another individual who went through the same phase only a few issues ago. The way Malcolm gets around on Page 8 is very cool; a character with this disability isn’t seen in comics (I can’t think of one) getting around this way. I’m a fan of Larsen using vertical panels to focus on the entirety of a character and there are two solid ones on Pages 10 and 11. The twelfth page begins the action sequence of the issue with a full-paged splash having five foes make the scene. Having the action sequences cut back and forth to Maxine’s night out puts some good tension into each story. The last page introduces a new character who could be appearing much more in future issues and she looks great. The final panel of the book pulls far away from both characters, making the last speaker’s words powerful. Action junkies might be disappointed with only four pages of a fight, but this book looks sensational. Overall grade: A

The colors: Nikos Koutsis, with flats by Mike Toris, creates the colors for this issue. The lack of colors behind Maxine on Page 1 have the reader unable to look away from the character on the first page. Her pink hoodie makes her seem incredibly young, which makes the blood red banner that surrounds the title intense. Greens dominate Pages 4 and 5, for obvious reasons, and I like that even the backgrounds are emerald. The arrival of the antagonists on 12 is the first page I’ve seen since I can remember that I don’t like. It’s just too passive. Yellows, pinks, and whites dominate. Yes, these are feminine colors, but the energy that the visuals have are lessened considerably by these choices. This characters continue with these pale tones when the heroes fight back and it makes them practically invisible on the page. They should have been as bright as the protagonists. Maxine’s scenes at the party have tempered colors to emphasize the interior setting and its hidden pleasures. These pages look great. Though only four pages long, I can’t shake those four bland action pages. Overall grade: B

The letters: Ferran Delgado has only been on this series for a few issues but he creates dynamic looking letters for every page. The title of this book is stand out for being in chipped away letters, giving it a broken feel, which fits in well thematically with this tale. The letters for the book itself, located above the title resemble the lettering of a classic 1960’s comic. With the book’s credits not in a box as they normally are has Maxine really get the reader’s focus. Delgado also creates dialogue, yells, sounds, an editorial note, a whisper, and the tease for next issue. The sounds are always big in Dragon books and this issue has several, such as BZAKKA-ZAKK!, SCRAKKA-RASSH!, and THRA-KOOM! The whispered dialogue increases the magic of the moment that’s shown by pulling the reader closer into the character’s experience. Delgado is always aces. Overall grade: A

The Deadly Duo in “Majorly Pissed!”: Written by Larsen, art and colors by Scott James, flats by Jorge Medina, and lettered by Ferran Delgado, this story opens with Kill-Cat bursting into a room of evil and finding something else entirely. The horror that Kid Avenger is about to endure was correctly teased in this story’s title. This pair’s exploits are always fun and this one certainly is. The art is really good, with James capturing the power of the characters well, even when they’re on the wrong end of evil. The colors are extremely bright and this is great to see; having a black border around the page really made the reds strong. The letters are also top notch, with the sounds and a whisper awesome. Overall grade: A

The Funnies: The inside back cover features three strips intended to tickle your funnybone. Eat More Bikes by Nathan Bulmer has deceptively simple art and lettering that’s my absolute favorite this month. Time Trabble by Mikey Heller has a joke that loses its punch after the third panel, though I do like the visuals. Berkeley Mews by Ben Zaehringer has a joke that’s been around for years, so it didn’t work for me. Though, as with Time Trabble, I liked the art. Overall grade: C-

The final line: A Dragon secret goes public and wife Maxine has a breakthrough, making this issue a strong character driven story. I’m looking forward to seeing Maxine’s character evolve, plus Malcolm’s return to form to take down Scourge. The visuals are tops, though some choices for colors don’t work. This book’s back up tales continue to spotlight different art styles and senses of humor. Though not all worked for me, they’re bound to have an audience. 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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