Comic book reviews: Savage Dragon #193

After much anticipation, Savage Dragon #193 (“1st Issue in a Bold New Direction!”) is finally out from Image Comics, courtesy of writer / artist Erik Larsen.  Malcolm Dragon, son of the original Dragon, officially takes over as the series’ main character with this issue.

Larsen has been developing a number of subplots over the past couple of years, such as the majority of Chicago’s costumed crime-fighters leaving town and the psychotic Dart seizing control of the Vicious Circle crime cartel.  Wisely, he puts all of this on the back burner, and devotes the entirety of #193 to Malcolm’s story.

Savage Dragon 193 cover

The issue opens with a flashback to several years before, with a much younger Malcolm leaping into battle to help his father against a gang of monsters. At first Dragon thinks his son is in over his head, but Malcolm soon proves himself capable, leading his father to comment “Nicely done, kiddo. You did your old man proud.”  Larsen then jumps forward to the present, where Malcolm is transferring to a new high school.

Malcolm is an interesting variation on the concept of a teenage superhero.  Unlike Spider-Man or Nova or the original Captain Marvel, Malcolm has no secret identity; everyone knows exactly who he is.  Well, when you are big, muscular, with dark green skin and a fin on your head, it’s not exactly easy to be incognito!  The result is that Malcolm is something of an instant celebrity at his new school.  And, quite honestly, he is not particularly pleased with that.  His female classmates are throwing themselves at him because he’s famous and strange-looking, aggravating Malcolm all the more so because his long-time girlfriend Maxine, who he really cared for, just broke up with him because her parents didn’t want them dating.

Complicating Malcolm’s efforts to build a new life for himself, the Chicago Police Department keep calling him in to help out against super-powered criminals.  It’s not something Malcolm  especially enjoys, but working as a bounty hunter helps pay the rent, and he possesses the same sort of obligation his father also felt to help out people in need.

Malcolm’s battle with the monstrous Tantrum this issue is pretty brutal.  From day one, Larsen has made Savage Dragon a violent book.  Of course, one of the things that separated this series from so many “grim & gritty” comics is that it never glamorized the blood & gore.  Hell, half the time it was the title character, the first Dragon, who took a severe beating.  And he certainly never enjoyed killing his enemies, even though he was sometimes forced to do so by circumstances.  The same is definitely true of Malcolm, who is left in a downbeat mood in the aftermath of his fight with Tantrum.

The only really positive note in Malcolm’s day is a trip to prison to visit his now-unpowered father.  Even though he obviously wishes his father was a free man, it’s obvious that Malcolm is glad to see him.  The elder Dragon tells his son that he is “very proud” of him, nicely bringing things full circle to the opening of the story.

Savage Dragon 193 pg 7

There was a three month lag between this issue and the last.  I have to tell you, as a reader it was frustrating waiting for #193 to come out.  But considering Larsen writes, pencils, and inks Savage Dragon all on his own, and he also delves into the occasional side project, he just isn’t always able to release a new issue each and every month.  Additionally, Larsen’s father passed away during the creation of this issue.  Given those unfortunate circumstances, it is very understandable that issue #193 ran a little behind schedule.  In any case, I’ve always felt that this series was worth the wait.  I would rather see Larsen take the extra time to create a great story than churn out a new issue every 30 days like clockwork.  Besides, compared the some of the other artists in the comic book biz nowadays, he’s a veritable speed demon!

Oh, yes, we did also get some nice pin-ups courtesy of Skottie Young, Ruben Rojas, Angel Hernandez and Simon Williams.  My favorites were the ones by Hernandez and Rojas, which both featured great depictions of Malcolm and his sister Angel, but Young and Williams also did nice work.  I’d enjoy seeing any of these artists contribute to Savage Dragon again.  Perhaps they could draw some back-up stories.  I’ve always enjoyed those.  They’ve been a great way to spotlight both the members of the immense supporting cast and the various talented artists out there.

Speaking of which, I see from the advertisement on the back cover that former “Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies” contributor Michel Fiffe has a new book coming out entitled Copra.  I’ll have to check that one out.

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