Sunday, March 30, 2008

Savage Dragon #135

Savage Dragon #135, March 2008, Image Comics
by Erik Larsen
letterer: John Workman

Blogger's note: Entry for Friday, March 28, 2008.

You have to hand it to Erik Larsen. Not only is he the only Image Comics founder still working on the creator-owned series he began fifteen years ago, but he does so even after achieving the title of Image Comics, Inc. Publisher! While his peers all abandoned their titles and returned to mainstream company-owned properties, Larsen managed to accomplish both, juggling the artistic reigns of his native Savage Dragon while at various times handling Marvel's Wolverine and The Defenders and DC's Aquaman. Now, he supervises an entire company's worth of titles, writes articles for Comic Book Resources, frequently touches base with fans on his message board, tours the Con circuit . . . and did I mention toil away at his own comic, Savage Dragon? Yes. I'm a fan.

Then again, you might've already known that, if you read my review of Savage Dragon #0 during A Comic A Day: Year One.

While "Fin-addicts" may not appreciate Savage Dragon's inconsistent schedule over the past few years, the result of Larsen's extensive workload, I actually revel in the series' infrequent release. The irregularity has actually encouraged me to purchase Dragon regularly again. Larsen has adapted his storytelling style to suit a more episodic pace, and though he maintains multi-issues arcs and subplots, they aren't nearly as complicated or micromanaged as they used to be. For instance, anybody can pick up Savage Dragon #135 and within pages know exactly what's going on. Dragon's wife is missing, and since she's recently lost her superpowers, Dragon believes that she's gone to see the Power Broker, a Seattle-based meta-maker. The action ensues when Dragon teams up with local heroes Prism and the Centurions to combat a horde of the Broker's minions.

Yet this issue is much more than the latest installment in Larsen's fifteen-year opus. Savage Dragon #135 reprints Graphic Fantasy #1, the first, self-published appearances of Prism and the Dragon from 1982. Larsen reprints his work on Prism "warts and all," a bold move considering that the comic book industry's contributors have become as popular as its most iconic characters. What I'm saying is, I don't think many artists would be so willing or eager to reprint their earliest, most amateurish work. This is why Erik Larsen is different. Sure, he describes the inclusion as "self-indulgent," but Graphic Fantasy reflects more than just the humble beginnings of his career. Graphic Fantasy reflects the raw enthusiasm of young artists trying to make a contribution, and offers a hope that even fanzines can become more than just arduous late night investments at Kinko's. Think about it -- Savage Dragon, a founding Image title, began in a fanzine published out of a comic shop in Bellingham, Washington! That's one graphic fantasy that came true!

This issue's lead Dragon story is also above average because of Larsen's artistic prowess. Some might say his art has been sloppy of late, as he's attempted to meet his deadlines, and others may say he's simply experimenting with different art styles. Either way, this issue seemed more solid and linear than previous installments, perhaps because of his reverence in reintroducing Prism to the world. Hey, I appreciated the clarity. A prism is an accurate description for it, narrowing a broadband to something narrow and piercing.

One hundred and thirty-five issues later, Erik Larsen does it again. His flagship character may have experienced a few different incarnations over the years, but he has remained Larsen's most prized possession, and like a parent that shows off his child's awkward early grade school photos, he isn't afraid to boast about these earliest appearances. Hey, I'll be the first to say, they aren't perfect . . . but that's what makes them so.


Anonymous said...

Erik had better stick to his Image books because the big companies won't put up with "slow and stupid" anymore. Comics that are monthlies need to be finished by the end of the month, Erik.

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