In Review: Savage Dragon #244

Action, drama, and Powerhouse!

The cover: Powerhouse pulls back his left fist to further plow Malcolm into a pinball machine that sports a familiar looking theme. This character is definitely one of the most visually striking characters in the Dragon’s Rogue Gallery and I’m happy to see his return. I love the pose of the antagonist, making every aspect of him clearly shown to the reader. Malcolm’s state is great and I love the pinball machine — talk about an item that Dragon fans would like to own! Erik Larsen has created another fun action frontpiece. Overall grade: A

The story: “Face-to-Face with Powerhouse!” is a clever story that might initially appear to be another comic book slugfest, but writer Erik Larsen is doing quite a bit more. The book opens with Powerhouse, Flash Mercury, and Fever battling some monsters, introducing their strength levels to the reader. This is followed by a surprisingly frank conversation between Malcolm and Maxine about what occurred at the end of last issue. This is not the sort of stuff one expects in a book populated by super powered people and it’s engaging. Their conversation is cut short with the arrival of producer Walden Wong who wants to create a pay-per-view event to generate money for Dragon (and himself). It’s a slugfest between him and Powerhouse. Larsen again interjects some reality, and commentary, into the issue before the battle can begin, with Pages 8 – 9 having a questions and answers session with the people responsible for creating the Dragon comics. It’s funny, a little too real, and closes with a great line. It’s then to the main event, with Malcolm and Powerhouse smacking each other around. Larsen has some terrific banter between the two as they hammer one another. The conclusion of the fight takes a serious turn when something unexpected happens, leaving some possible payback for a future appearance. This was a solid action issue with some strong characterization and commentary on comics. Overall grade: A

The art: Erik Larsen looks to be having a ball with the layout of this book. The first page is an excellent throwback to classic Jack Kirby books with Powerhouse right in the reader’s face. This is followed by a double-paged splash showing the three familiar faces battling several foes of all shapes and sizes, with plenty of explosions and fires occurring. And this may be a minor thing, but I really liked the rats and other small creatures abandoning this site. Very cool. Malcolm and Maxine’s conversation is done in tight close-ups, giving Larsen the opportunity for the characters’ emotions to really put some punch into their dialogue. I am an absolute sucker of circular panels that spotlight a character — it’s always looked so classy and timeless to me, reminding me of Carl Barks’s work. Pages 6 – 7 is a neat layout with one of those spectacular circular panels in the dead center. Just cool. This is followed by twenty panels with the comic book creators speaking with Malcolm and Maxine. This allows for a conversation that seems very quick and makes the humor and the angst palpable. I like seeing the familiar faces that are watching the pay-per-view event and things go into action mode with the monstrous first punch thrown on 12. I love that panels cross both pages, with Malcolm’s flight on 12 and 13 epic. I also like when characters get hit and go out of the panel and off the page as what happens on 13. I love the focus on Powerhouse that starts 14 and, again, that long panel in the center is epic. The payback on 16 – 17 is intense. The visual that ends the fight at the top of 19 is funny until something dramatic occurs, which is a very energetic panel that crosses 18 – 20. The reaction from Malcolm is excellent. The final three panels is a cinematic pull back that is the perfect closer. I’m never disappointed by Larsen’s visuals. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The red explosion that surrounds the book’s story is a dramatic opening from Nikos Koutsis with flats by Mike Toris. The pastiche of colors on the creature that Powerhouse is punching on 2 and 3 increases its horrific nature. There are several panels that have wide borders in this issue and they’re colored to increase the emotion occurring within them; for example, blue surrounds Malcolm and Maxine’s conversation, increasing the sadness. Walden’s green colors make him an instant eye catcher and visually freakier than the super powered people in this series. The orange and tan that serves as the background for the comic book conversation gives the back and forth a hostile tone, which is how the Dragons are speaking. When Malcolm and Powerhouse tussle the backgrounds go yellow and orange to increase the energy and those colors allow the sounds to stand out in darker colors. Overall grade: A+

The letters: The book’s title, the story’s title, credits, yells, sounds, dialogue, whispered speech, and transmissions are created by Ferran Delgado. I admit to getting a thrill on the first page of SD because the title, credits, and hype all resemble the style of classic Marvel Comics from the 1960’s. The yells in this book are in thicker and larger fonts of various sizes to show how loud a character should be heard by the reader. There are two instances of whispered speech, one to suggest pain and the other for shock. Both are easily read and pump up the intensity of what’s spoken. The sounds are off the chart epic in this battle — SKRAKOW!, BRAKKA-SKRAKKA-BRAKK!, PRUDD!, and PLINK! are just joyful to look upon. Overall grade: A+

G-Man Webcomics: There are six pages by Chris Giarrusso chronicling G-Man’s attempts in creating a comic for Shifty, the shape changer. The visuals are as funny as the story, with some nice pokes at comic creators and fans. Who’d have thought that cars, Robert De Niro, and Twitter could be so funny in one story? G-Man Webcomics have appeared before in Savage Dragon and continue to be incredibly funny in their jokes and visuals. Overall grade: A 

The Funnies: A pair of strips on the inside back cover: Time Trabble by Mikey Heller and Moonbeard by James Squires. Heller’s strip was only missing having sand kicked on the protagonist’s face at the start. It was strange and had a punchline that left me giggling. Squire’s strip demonstrates why wizards can’t own dogs. It’s smile worthy. Overall grade: B

The final line: Action, drama, and Powerhouse! A clever justification has the cover characters involved in fisticuffs and there’s a surprising inclusion of a couple’s troubles and comic book commentary. The visuals are out of the park, be it people pounding one another or characters having a conversation. The backup features are also fun. You just can’t go wrong picking up Savage Dragon. 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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