Valentine’s Day is here, which makes this a good time for me to look at the three most recent issues of Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen from Image Comics, as Malcolm Dragon marries his high school sweetheart Maxine Jung Lai.
As you can see from the cover to Savage Dragon #209, Maxine is very pregnant. Malcolm did use protection, but he soon discovered that his super-strength extended to his, um, reproductive processes. Those condoms didn’t stand a chance! And now I’m reminded of that old essay “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex” by science fiction novelist Larry Niven. Fortunately Malcolm and Maxine had already been thinking about getting hitched, but the pregnancy did result in those plans getting pushed forward ever so slightly!
Of course Maxine still has to worry about a super-powered fetus kicking its way out of her womb, something that occurred nearly two decades earlier with Malcolm’s own mother Rapture. Indeed, as we see in these three issues, this turns out to be a very real, fatal concern for Malcolm’s ex-girlfriend Tierra. I remember commenting several months ago that the sexual shenanigans between Malcolm, Maxine, Tierra and Angel were like something out of a cheesy porno flick. However, as we see here, Larsen is continuing to follow up on the very serious consequences of this act of reckless teenage sexuality.
Larsen scripts Maxine as an irreverent smart-ass. She’s very well suited to be with Malcolm, whose life is just plain crazy. The banter between the two of them is wonderful. Larsen gives them good chemistry. Malcolm and Maxine make a great couple, and I look forward to seeing how Larsen continues to develop their relationship.
In the next issue Malcolm and Maxine head off for their honeymoon, only to find themselves in yet another bizarre misadventure. They run into a very old foe of Malcolm’s father, as Larsen dusts off a baddie from the very first year of his run on Savage Dragon.
I love the cover for issue #210. There are so few comic book covers like this anymore. That style of cover artwork unfortunately became unfashionable in the late 1990s, replaced by pin-up or poster types of images. Yeah, those can be pretty to look at, but they very seldom tell you anything about the stories inside. They don’t grab you attention and make you want to pick up the comic book to find out what the story is behind it. Fortunately in a number of respects Larsen remains an unapologetic traditionalist, and Savage Dragon has often featured cover artwork that jumps out at you.
Issue #210 also has a humorous six page back-up written by Larsen featuring Flash Mercury, Powerhouse and Fever doing their professional monster hunters thing. The talented Frank Fosco, who most recently illustrated the Vanguard serial, provides some excellent artwork.
As I’ve observed before, Larsen has a huge cast of characters, and the back-ups are a great way to give some of them the spotlight. I hope there will be more in the future. I’ve heard that series editor Gavin Higginbotham is eager to write some new ones. And, hey, speaking for myself, I’d love to pitch one! How about something looking at Horridus as a single mom / crime-fighter trying to make ends meet after the death of her husband Rex Dexter? Ever since seeing Horridus in mourning at Rex’s grave in issue #208 I’ve been wondering what happens to her and her daughter.
In issue #211, now that Malcolm is out of high school and married, it’s time for him to get a full-time job. He follows in his father’s footsteps, joining the Chicago police department. Much of the material from #211 originally appeared in the Savage Dragon: Legacy special that came out as part of last year’s Free Comic Book Day. Larsen adds several new pages and re-scripts some dialogue to reflect various events and developments that he either changed his mind about in the succeeding months or wanted to keep secret between then and now.
Issue #211 has a “1st Issue In A Bold New Direction” blurb, just as issue #193 did two years previously. It’s nice that Larsen devises jumping-on points from time to time. Since Savage Dragon has been running for 23 years, it’s good to have periodic issues that bring newer readers up to speed, and that refresh the memories of long-time fans such as myself.
Larsen’s scripting in Savage Dragon often has something of an exposition-heavy quality to it. While at times this means his dialogue does not sound quite natural, it nevertheless ensures that important events are recapped for readers on a regular basis. That’s certainly an asset in #211, as Malcolm explains his somewhat convoluted origins.
Notice something else? Despite these two “Bold New Direction” issues, both times Larsen resisted the urge to re-start the numbering on Savage Dragon with a brand new issue #1. Honestly, I am sooooo sick of Marvel and DC doing that. Perhaps that might result in a temporary bump in sales. But at the same time, a new first issue can actually present a jumping-off point for readers whose interest in a series is wavering. That’s certainly been true for me on a few occasions.
Whatever any case, I’ve barely read anything the Big Two have published in the last several years. And as I’ve stated a few times on this blog, Savage Dragon is my favorite ongoing comic book series.
Right before Savage Dragon #211 came out I recently took the opportunity to re-read issues #193 to 210 in one sitting. Larsen did very good work during this two year period, writing and drawing some entertaining, weird, humorous stories. I’m looking forward to seeing how he now proceeds onward from #211.