Savage Dragon #170 (Image Comics)

Taking a chance on a jump-on issue of Erik Larsen’s long-running superhero epic.

32 pgs., full color; $3.50
(W / A: Erik Larsen)
I have no idea what I just read.
Okay, that’s a bit extreme. I picked up Savage Dragon #170 because a few friends recommended it as a good jumping on point to a great series. They weren’t exactly wrong. It’s clear at the beginning of the issue that Things Have Changed, and the issue is a series of small vignettes about where a few key characters stand in the aftermath of that change and what they plan to do about it. After doing a bit of research, I learned that two issues earlier, a Major Thing happened and Everything Is Different Now. So yes, indeed this is a great jumping on point.
The issue begins with young Malcolm Dragon (green and burly with regenerative powers) and his sister Angel (definitely not green but impressively burly all the same) as they pick up the crime-fighting slack in their city. They dispense with some baddies while discussing typical high school things like homework and boyfriends. Malcolm then spends some time recovering in the hospital and just as he is released, more chaos breaks loose in the city. The police force doesn’t want to tap the youngsters again, but they can’t call on Mighty Man, because as the cover image suggests, MIghty Man is the one out of control. Mighty Man is also female, but that’s old news to everyone but new readers.
By the end of the issue, the fresh burden of being high school students and members of the city’s rapidly diminishing crime-fighting force is wearing on the sibling crime fighters and they start making plans to rescue some lost comrades. At least, I think that’s what they were doing. Part of jumping on means that when characters reference past events, you have no clue what’s happening.
This issue had a lot to like, but eventually left me a bit underwhelmed. As a newcomer to the series I was pleased to see such an effortlessly ethnically diverse cast of characters. I like stories about young adults forced to face extremely adult (and even "super" adult) responsibilities. While this doesn’t appear to have been a theme of Savage Dragon for the first 168 issues, it is now. I like witty people, and the banter between Angel and Malcolm was mostly up to my standards. Some of the other folks, not so much. I was also left scratching my head on a few things, but after poking around on the Internet for a few minutes, I had enough context to figure most things out. The problem the issue suffers from is not uncommon with jumping on points: it’s the lull before the next story really gets going. There wasn’t much to distinguish this comic from the crowd, and the few cliffhangers didn’t resonate with me as a newcomer.
It’s not fair to say the artwork wasn’t well done, but it wasn’t to my taste. The women were drawn almost as caricatures, and their extremely narrow waists and ample bosoms were exaggerated even further by too-tight tops and too-short skirts. I let it go once I pointed out to myself that the male characters had their own unrealistic attributes, even if the "camera" didn’t showcase them as much. The bigger problem for me was that Larsen switches freely from a highly-detailed to a minimalist style between frames. Someone with detailed features in one frame will be reduced to pinpoint eyes on a shadow-less face the next. It’s not an uncommon look, but I never dig it when I see it unless the artist uses it sparingly and goes to the chibi extreme.
Maybe it was the hype, maybe it was the last few pages full of references I just didn’t understand. I’d like to give it another shot next month, but unless the writing makes up for the artwork, I’ll be walking away. | Kelly Stephenson
Click here for a preview of Savage Dragon #170, right here at PLAYBACK:stl.

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