The much-anticipated 200th issue of Savage Dragon came out this past Wednesday, published by Image Comics. Written & drawn by Erik Larsen, along with regular collaborators Gary Carlson & Frank Fosco, plus a number of talented guest creators, this 100 page extravaganza features several tales of Malcolm Dragon, his step-sister Angel, their father the original Dragon, and their wacky & weird supporting cast.
The main story opens with Malcolm’s girlfriend Maxine moving in with him. Several issues back it appeared that Malcolm and Maxine were going to break up, as her parents wanted her to settle down with a nice Chinese-American boy. After being set up on innumerable blind dates, Maxine finally reached the breaking point and left home to be with Malcolm.
I’m happy that Maxine remains a part of the regular cast. She is an interesting, fun, assertive character. On his Facebook page, Larsen has commented that he really enjoys writing Maxine. It certainly shows in his stories, as he chronicles the offbeat relationship between Maxine and Malcolm. Larsen gives the two characters good chemistry.
After the two of them hop into bed for some fun between the sheets, things took a turn for the bizarre. Angel shows up to announce that the original Dragon has been kidnapped from jail by the Vicious Circle crime cartel in order to ransom him for their imprisoned leader Dart, who Malcolm captured a few issues ago. Despite the fact that she is the one who originally set them up, Angel is surprised to find her step-brother and her best friend getting it on. And then Maxine tosses a curveball and suggests that they try a threesome.
Um, okay… I did not see that coming. It is more than a bit unusual. Yes, I do realize that Malcolm and Angel are not actually related, and it’s been very strongly implied in the past that there was some attraction between the two. But to actually see Larsen go there and throw Maxine into the mix is, um, sort of strange. Okay, yeah, all three of them are in their late teens, so it makes sense they’d be horny and willing to experiment. At least Larsen does it semi-tastefully, and we do not actually see anything taking place, just an exterior shot of the building with some suggestive word balloons placed in the picture.
After their romp in the sack, Malcolm and Angel head out to rescue Dragon. They pretty much deliver a major beat-down to the Vicious Circle. No wonder the Circle wants Dart back so badly; without her leadership they’re pretty damn useless nowadays. In fact, even though Dragon was recently de-powered, he manages to defeat the goons who were holding him hostage, since he still retains all of his fighting skills from his years as a police officer, bounty hunter, and government agent. Malcolm and Angel catch up with him at a local watering hole, where he’s having a cold one before turning himself back in to the authorities. When the police get there, though, they have some bad news: somehow Dart has managed to stage a jail-break all on her own, and is once again on the loose.
This was pretty good, although I do wonder if the whole threesome thing is going to cause some problems between the characters in the future. After all, Angel is currently involved with the Golden Age Daredevil, her teammate on the Special Operations Strikeforce.
The coloring by Nikos Koutsis was nicely done. My only complaint is that Malcolm’s coloring was off in several places. Instead of his usual dark green, he was colored as grey on several pages. I hate to nit-pick. Other than that, good work.
Gary Carlson & Frank Fosco contribute the latest chapter of their ongoing Vanguard serial. Van, Wally, Roxanne and friends explore the now-desolate Kalyptan home world. A couple of years ago it was revealed that the decades-long war between the Kalyptans and the Tyranneans had finally ended. The Kalyptans’ robot servants betrayed them to the Tyrrus Combine, resulting in the almost total decimation of Vanguard’s people. Now we finally find out exactly why the Servitors switched sides: they were convinced to do so by an old enemy of Vanguard’s first seen quite a number of years ago in another story by Carlson & Fosco. Truthfully, I barely remembered who this guy was… it’s been years since I’ve looked at those issues. At least Carlson includes enough expository dialogue, plus a footnote referencing those comics, to enable someone like myself with foggy recollection to fill in the blanks. Whatever the case, the Vanguard back-ups continue to entertain, and I hope that they will remain a feature in Savage Dragon for a while longer.
Among the guest creators who contributed to Savage Dragon #200, the most notable is industry legend Herb Trimpe. On more than one occasion Larsen has stated that he is a fan of Trimpe’s work. Trimpe drew the very first comic book that Larsen ever bought as a kid, Incredible Hulk #156. As Larsen himself stated on Twitter, it was “a dream come true” to collaborate with Trimpe.
Larsen and Trimpe actually work together on two stories in issue #200. The first one, “Out of Time,” has Trimpe penciling a plot by Larsen, who then inked & dialogued the story. This flashback tale has cyborg scientist Rex Dexter sending the still-powered Dragon and the then-young Malcolm back in time to World War II in order to retrieve future technology which has been stolen by the Nazis.
It seems like Larsen plotted this out at least partially as an homage to Trimpe’s work on Incredible Hulk. Aside from the fact that they are both big and green, the Dragon and the Hulk are actually very different characters. That said, Larsen obviously could not resist plotting out a tale for Trimpe to draw that has Dragon tossing around tanks and smashing up an army, much as Marvel’s jade giant used to do when Trimpe was illustrating his adventures back in the Bronze Age. It’s definitely a fun story, and I enjoyed seeing Trimpe inked by Larsen.
The second collaboration between Larsen and Trimpe, “The Contest,” has them swap roles. Larsen’s pencils are inked by Trimpe. This story, set in the present day, sees Mister Glum, the diminutive dictator from Dimension X, attacking Dragon in prison. Glum believes he finally has an opportunity to crush Dragon now that his old foe is de-powered. Of course things certainly do not go well for Glum, who is basically the size of a stuffed animal.
This is a pretty wacky story, truthfully. But it does provide a nice example of how important an inker is to the final look of the artwork. Larsen’s work inked by Trimpe is rather different than when Larsen inks himself. Larsen did something similar exactly one hundred issues ago, when he had several different inkers such as Terry Austin, Tim Townsend, Mike Royer and John Beatty contribute the embellishments to each chapter of #100. The results were certainly interesting and fun.
It is odd to see that Glum and the alternate reality version of Angel are still together during the events of this issue. It’s weird that Angel is still completely devoted to Glum, who despite his comedic appearance and bumbling nature is quite insane. I wonder if there’s some form of Stockholm syndrome at work here. It’s no wonder that Dragon wants to get this other incarnation of his step-daughter away from the tiny tyrant and try to restore her to her right mind. I hope that’s something Larsen will follow up on in the future.
Among the other back-ups, “Taken” featuring the Special Operations Strikeforce was another favorite. Ever since all of these heroes moved from Chicago to Washington DC to work for the government I’ve missed seeing them show up. It was cool when Larsen utilized them as the cavalry in Savage Dragon #199. So I’m happy that they got a story of their own in #200. This one is written by Larsen, with series colorists Nikos Koutsis and Mike Toris contributing the pencils and inks. Their style is an interesting mix of cartoony and detailed.
I really wish this one had been longer than eight pages! I wanted to see more of SuperPatriot, who is one of my favorite supporting characters. He has such an awesome design, although I bet those highly detailed shape-shifting giant gun arms of his can be a real chore to illustrate! Likewise, after several years of will-they-or-won’t-they, we finally have Angel and Daredevil becoming a couple, which I wish could have been given more space.
I realize that Savage Dragon already has that great Vanguard back-up feature. But it would be nice if that slot could occasionally rotate, and we could have stories featuring SuperPatriot, Angel, Daredevil, and some of the other members of the SOS. Larsen has a veritable army of cool characters. He’s admitted on a few occasions that it can be difficult to find the space to fit them all in. I really wish that Savage Dragon was a gigantic best-seller, so that it would be economically feasible for Larsen to once again publish a few spin-off miniseries, as he was able to back in the mid-1990s.
Speaking of those innumerable characters, a pretty obscure one, Lightning Bug, also has a back-up tale in #200. Written by Savage Dragon editor Gavin Higginbotham, with layouts by Ron Frenz and finished art by Scott James, “Bad Hair Day” sees one-time criminal Lighting Bug re-considering her ways as she tangles with the magenta-tressed Wildhair. Higginbotham has previously written a few humorous, fun back-up stories, so it was nice to see another one by him. James’ artwork is very nice, another example of a style that is sort of oddball but meticulous. I was pleasantly surprised to see Frenz’s name in these pages. I’m a long-time fan of his work, and I’d certainly enjoy having him contribute to this series again.
Congratulations to Erik Larsen on reaching this milestone issue. I look forward to many more from him.