Monday, 27 February 2017

Savage Dragon Archives, Volume One, by Erik Larsen (Image Comics) | review by Stephen Theaker

This huge black and white collection includes issues one to three of the original Savage Dragon mini-series, plus the first twenty-one issues of the ongoing series, all of it written and drawn by the character’s creator, Erik Larsen. As with the Walking Dead books, there is nothing to indicate where one issue begins and the next ends, making for an intense helter-skelter of a reading experience, fights with full-page villains constantly bursting out of nowhere. There are moments of peace here and there, but the Dragon’s life is not one of quiet contemplation. He was found in a vacant burning lot, his skin green and tough, his head sporting a fin, and his arms as thick as tree-trunks. He remembers nothing about his life, but remembers baseball and the president. A desperate friend, Frank, finds a way to finagle the Dragon into joining the police force (in a way that he’ll come to greatly regret), and thus begins the jolly green giant’s career as the official strong arm of the law. It’s tremendously exciting, bonkers, and inventive, one bizarre battle following another, with very little time wasted on introducing the villains – they just get on with it – and the ongoing storylines and mysteries are always ticking away nicely. The artwork to me seems quite similar to John Byrne’s (ironically, since he comes in for some stick in the book as Johnny Redbeard), with the drama of Frank Miller, and the crackling kinetic energy of Jack Kirby. Reading it in colour might have helped me to make visual sense of some fight scenes quicker, but it still looked really nice in black and white. It reminded me of what I like so much about Invincible, a much later hit from the same publisher, in that it feels like a whole superhero universe in one book – even the guest appearances from Spawn and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are made to feel like an organic part of the over-the-top storytelling. Is it truly good? Hard to judge, because it’s playing by its own mad logic, but it’s certainly an enjoyable and unique experience. The subsequent five volumes were, on the whole, just as enjoyable. ****

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