Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review - Savage Dragon 176

Once upon a time there was a comic about an amnesic super-cop with a fin on his head. 176 issues latter... a lot has changed. That super-cop got fired, became a government agent, accidentally changed history, went on the run across a ravage America, saved the world, saved the world again, got married, accidentally let the world get enslaved, lost his wife, became a cop again, had his brains eaten, and then died. Now his kids protect the city of Chicago from the super-freaks that aim to control/destroy it. Its bombastic, violent, crass, and sometimes heartfelt comic storytelling at its finest. With the sort of storied history that captures a reader's imagination, drawing him/her into the web of adventure it provides.

It also sells on 5,000 copies a month, which is continuing miscarriage of justice bordering on the criminal.

This issue title hero, Malcolm Dragon, struggles with bullies. One of the high school blowhard type, and the other a power armor wearing enigma trying to reshape society in his vision, and failing miserably at it. Malcolm's troubles with a high school meathead showcases series creator (and writer/illustrator for 176 issues) Erik Larsen's ability to take a classic super-hero trope, in this case the hero's high school troubles, and turn it right on its ear. Malcolm can't hide who he is, and doesn't want too, but when he's getting picked on he can't just haul-off and slug the jerk either.

And then Overlord shows up. The original Overlord had a long history with Malcolm's dad, but since Savage Dragon 150, this new Overlord has been making rounds. Pushing for things like better human/freak relations, and generally playing the hero. Albeit a bit of a heavy handed hero, who's not afraid to kill and generally make a mess of things. His dream of better conditions for disenfranchised freaks and mutants hasn't been getting much traction within the freak communities. Many see Overlord as a phoney behind an iron mask, not to mention enjoy smashing and stealing things. Overlord wants to get Malcolm to help him, but when Malcolm blows him off (since Overlord was pretty much the one that killed his dad) Overlord reacts by trying to clobber Malcolm.

Ever since Malcolm, and his step-sister Angel, took over the title after their dad died there has been a conceited effort to build up an extended cast at least as good as Dragon always had. Overlord being a prime example of a good foil for Malcolm, without being and out and out villain. Though the big myster of who Overlord is, seems to have been going on for quite a while now. It'd be nice to get some resolution to that.

Also this issue, a 6-page back up feature by Gary Carlson and Frank Fosco, Vanguard. Carlson and Fosco are long time collaborators with Erik Larsen, having worked on numerous projects under Erik's editorial-ship. Vanguard has always been one of the better supporting cast members of Savage Dragon, and having him in a title of his own again (even if it only is a series of back-ups) makes for a seriously entertaining read. Between the main Savage Dragon feature, and the Vanguard back-up you really feel like you get your money's worth out of Savage Dragon.

Savage Dragon has continually been one of the most reliable comics I've ever read, the fact that it doesn't have the comercial success to go along with its continuing critical success is appalling. If you read one super-hero comic, make it Savage Dragon. You will never regret it. FINTASTIC.


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