For decades, three little words have haunted avid comic book readers everywhere: "To be continued." Nothing inspires more fist-pounding frustration than reading twenty-two to thirty pages of nail-biting action and drama only to discover you'll have to wait another four weeks to see how it all ends. Thanks to my experience as a longtime reader, I've oftentimes accurately predicted the next issue's events, essentially reconciling the story before I've even read its conclusion. This helps me sleep at night.
Alas, every now and then, issues like The Lone Ranger #20 and Savage Dragon#157 come along and totally disrupt this delicate balance.
The Lone Ranger and Savage Dragon are two of my most favorite titles and among the chosen few ongoing series I collect monthly, and when they come out the same week, it's a good week, indeed . . . but this week, I'm not so sure. See, at the end of The Lone Ranger #19, John confronted Linda about her hidden feelings, and Linda rebutted . . . by kissing Tonto. Now, I expected this issue to open with her using the P.D.A. as a means of exposing John's love via jealousy, but it turns out Linda and Tonto are really an item. So, this issue's first page definitely wins The Most Painful Page to Read Award, as John stammers, "Right. I knew that. I mean, I knew about him. That it's him you've been wanting to talk about. That you wanted . . . Right." Artist Sergio Cariello so captures the twisted face of a broken heart, I can't stand to look at it. Still, this issue also wins The Bros Before Hos Award, as the Lone Ranger and Tonto refuse to end their partnership, especially now, on the run from the feds and on the heels of their worst enemy. Writer Brett Matthews pulls no punches, to the heart or the head.
Now, longtime readers of A Comic A Day know how I feel about Erik Larsen and Savage Dragon, and just when I think I have that book figured out, Larsen takes his title character on another point of seemingly no return. In the thick of his "Dragon War" story arc, two Dragons from parallel dimensions are battling over the title, but the one we know and love already isn't himself, as his brain had been eaten by a monster (long story) and has regenerated sans memories of his current life. At last issue's end, with the mindset of alien despot, Dragon was eating the brain of his other-dimensional doppelganger (to prevent it from growing back like his did, of course), when his son showed up. Now, I anticipated a slugfest, with perhaps a climactic emotional plea to Dragon's suppressed psyche, but instead, father clobbers son, who then hides in the sewer (as I suppose a frightened boy would do). Meanwhile, one-time archnemesis Overlord has become an advocate for freak rights, infusing his once-villainous Vicious Circle with Dragon blood and mutating them into proverbial citizens on patrol. At this point, I don't know who to root for -- and either way a Dragon will win! Larsen is the only writer/artist I know capable of slaughtering his sacred cows so effortlessly.
Sometimes, comics can rip your heart out, or leaving you standing beside yourself. So, why keep reading 'em? Why endure thirty days of cliffhanging torture? Sure, they aren't always predictable -- but the feelings of wonder and excitement they inspire are reliable. They're absolutely consistent in their potential to be as inconsistent as possible, and isn't that the point of escapism? Those three little words are as fist-poundingly frustrating as they are promisingly reliable: "To be continued!"
The Lone Ranger, published by Dynamite Entertainment, written by Brett Matthews, illustrated by Sergio Cariello, colored by Marcelo Pinto of Impacto Studios, and lettered by Simon Bowland.
Savage Dragon, published by Image Comics, by Erik Larsen, lettered by Tom Orzechowski, and colored by Steve Oliff.