Savage Dragon #225
***Probably some spoilers***
Okay, there's something to talk about right off the bat here: the XXX Cover D. That's right. There were four covers for this issue: two by Erik Larsen, a great one by Frank Fosco, and a Triple-X cover by Rafael Kras. And that XXX rating is no exaggeration. It pictures Malcolm in bed with Angel, Maxine, and Tierra. Chests, vaginas, and juices are showing, along with open condom packets and miscellaneous items of clothing strewn about (not to mention a couple of used condoms that I didn't notice at first). This cover is $11.99, while the other three are $9.99 each. I bought all four. I don't normally do that, but I wanted to think about it for awhile. No, that's not a subtle innuendo for something dirty.
It's just... back in my review for SD #222 I mentioned Larsen's renewed commitment to "anything goes," and how it seems to have crossed the line from "in context" to "because I can." Cover D definitely, defiantly falls into the "because I can" column. I mean how could it not? There are three other perfectly fine covers. After the first cover, they're all "because I can."
The main story is pretty much outstanding. Mister Glum having succeeded in merging all of the existing realities that Darklord had created, everyone finds that they now remember all of their multiple lives, and it's causing confusion. Amidst this confusion, Malcolm has to battle Darklord, and is assisted by a repowered Dragon. More than one dies during the battle, and while shocking, it will make an undeniable splash. Who dies? Well, remember back in issue #31 when Dragon asks God if he can decide for his afterlife to be "a bevy of leggy supermodels?" We get to see the answer to that in this issue. It's silly, but also kind of touching. Needless to say, everything changes with this story.
Going further into "because I can" territory (which I'll just call BIC from now on) was the Derek Hunter back-up story that was pretty much a gag about Dragon punching the heads off of badguys. It was done for comedic effect, and the art was something you might expect to see in MAD Magazine. I'm not a fan of that kind of art, but that's certainly personal taste. This story was obviously a joke, and I'd be surprised if it ever ties into the main story.
Decidedly in BIC land was the back-up "Angel Murphy: Battle Girl! Throwdown!" where she loses her top in a battle with Slag. Her chest is ginormous and flopping all over the frames, nipples just as out there as they can be. This is followed by a conversation about the size of Thunderhead's privates. The art in this one was by Raven Perez. It was very similar to Hunter's art, but seemed more like the cheesy soft core porn it was. The thing is: it could tie in to the main story, as it could signal an impending relationship between Angel and Thunderhead, or at least some ongoing sex. It could have been done without showing the bouncing boobs though.
There was a great horror-ish back-up from Frank Fosco called "I Faced the Monster From the Murky Depths!" There's an odd moment with Dragon's fin right at the end, but it is otherwise awesome! Mister Fosco responded to me personally about this on Facebook, and said he chalks it up to being tired at the time. In other words: things happen. It's a really beautifully done story though.
There are also three one-page strips of "Catchin' Up With Flash Mercury." The first has an appearance by Ricochet, and the other two feature Ant. It was cool to see Ant make it into the book.
We get to see the return of Freak Force, which while wonderful, was marred just a bit for me by yet another political statement. Characters are going to make political statements- especially a literal flag-wearing character like Superpatriot. They just seem to me to be less character-driven, and more like Erik Larsen getting on a soapbox ever since Obama was running for office. We do get to see the introduction of Dart III, so that is a definite plus.
Last but not least, we got a completely retouched and recolored reprint of Graphic Fantasy #1- the pre-Image, first ever appearance of Savage Dragon. I had been watching this develop on Larsen's Facebook page, and had actually been looking forward to it excitedly as I'd never had a chance to read the story. I was not disappointed, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! There was a one page splash of a ghostly, nude Susan Wilson (renamed in today's series as Jennifer Murphy) but frankly, I don't hold it up to the same scrutiny as the current storyline. It was a younger Larsen, and the idea of doing whatever you wanted in a comic was a novelty then. She didn't have to be naked, but it was done with tact. I had to ask on Facebook if we'd get to see a reprint of Graphic Fantasy #2 in the future, and Larsen's response was "Eventually, yeah." Same as I said then- looking forward to it.
There's a black-and-white pin-up on the inside front cover, and a retouched version of the cover of Graphic Fantasy #1 on the back cover. It's worth mentioning that Larsen agonized briefly on Facebook over how to do the GF cover. I think the final product came out great.
For the score, I'm going to give it four stars for the main story, plus two stars for the appearance of Dragon's afterlife. Minus one star for the BIC Cover D. Minus one for the BIC Angel story. Minus one for Derek Hunter's BIC story. Plus three for Frank Fosco's story, plus one for his cover, but minus one for the fin in that last panel (sorry, Mister Fosco- it still bugs me). Plus one for the Flash Mercury back-ups, and plus two for Ant appearing in them. Plus three for the return of Freak Force, plus one for Dart III, and minus two for the tired political statements. Plus five for the great reproduction of Graphic Fantasy #1. Yeah, that leaves us with sixteen stars.
Although I've scored them already, I've got to ding this further just for the general use of soapbox political statements, and BIC nudity. Yep, I'm dinging it twelve stars. You read that right: minus twelve stars. What can I say? I get tired of being browbeat with political opinions. Comics are supposed to be escapism. Sure, we can touch on any subject, but for me, I'm just tired of reading political soapbox rants masquerading as story. More power to Mister Larsen for doing what he wants to do, but it dings the book's rating in my eyes. The nudity...I'm not a prude, but this "because I can" attitude is a real head-scratcher for me. I thought the Image guys got over this after the first couple of years at Image. I don't see the point beyond, "Hey, look: I drew boobs and vaginas!"
Final score: four stars.
Read my review for Savage Dragon #226.