A Brave New Topsy-Turvy World For All: Reviewing Savage Dragon #225

by Oliver MacNamee

 

I have to confess, it’s been a while since I’ve read Savage Dragon and in picking up this oversized anniversary issue I was worried I’d have a hard time getting the gist of the story, the characters, and the world Erik Larsen has carved out over the last 25 years. That’s some legacy to try and penetrate. But, you know what; through subtle exposition it took me all of a few pages to get back into the groove and enjoy this comic.

I’m a sucker for multiple earth stories–I’m a huge DC fan–so this concluding episode in the “Merging of Multiple Earths” had me hooked immediately. In merging the parallel worlds Larsen had previously created for Dragon–and so many more, it would seem–characters that were thought dead are once again alive, but remember all realities they once were a part of. Causing some confusion, to say the least and ‘remembering events that couldn’t possibly have happened.’  Maybe he’s alluding to the many, many cross-overs he’s had over the years with the likes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hellboy or even Mars Attacks.

When you look at the history of the Image universe, and in particular Dragon’s own history in that universe, it can be a bit overwhelming. Remember Dragon’s dalliance into the Savage World from issue 76 onwards? But, in one fell swoop a new reality emerges as a kind of reset button, but with a few bugs still to be worked out down the road. The beauty of being the creator and sole storyteller here is the ability to plan ahead, without worrying about editorial interference or other creators on your back more than willing to take over on a title.

Savage Dragon’s world; past, present and future are all Larsen’s to mold and he’s still having a fun time doing it, it would seem from this issue. Here’s a man clearly still in love with comics and still playfully toying with the many, many tropes and cliches we’ve all come to understand and love (or loathe) in interesting and new ways. Is this some kinda post-modernist comic then? Or, just a fan having fun on a grand scale, and because he can? Come on, we all know it’s the latter, right?

Larsen, to me, represents Image at its best. He has steadfastly stuck with his creation through thick and thin and created a world, a universe all his own and in some ways this issue is a celebration of that, as well as something of a stock take. In realigning the Dragon’s universe, Larsen once again breathes fresh life into the ongoing epic that is Savage Dragon. Again, I’m not too overfamiliar with this title these days, but then maybe that makes me the perfect reader to pass comment on the success or failure of this story as a jumping on point for would-be new readers or, like me, lapsed believers.

Personally I think it works as a great jumping on point, because it’s a brave new world, albeit a topsy-turvy one for now, that Larsen presents at the start of this issue, based on events from last issue. Here he is presenting another version of Dragon’s world, but in doing so, once again, Larsen is passing comments on the industry too. In a recent interview with comicbook.com, Larsen openly admits that the current storyline is reflective of what was missing from the New DC roll out several years ago. Equally, it could be passing comment on their recent rebirth too whereby DC are once again trying to re-instate all that was good and all that the fans missed.

Larsen is giving them that in spades. All stories happened, all deaths, loves and births, but they are memories only now. DC’s Superman titles are he best example of this in recent times, with the re-establishment of the John Byrne/Dan Jurgens era Superman. But again, he is still not totally convincing when you compare him with what Larsen is doing in Savage Dragon. But then, Supes does have nearly 80 years of continuity to consider. Hell, he even has something of a tenuous cameo in here too, but I’ll let you find that one out for yourself. Its rather a fun inclusion; almost as if what has happened to Dragons; world has rippling effects onto other universes from other companies. That, or he’s just having laugh along with us. Again, I think we all know which one it is.

With everyone remembering everything that has come before, this could well lead to some very awkward situations and conversations in future issues. Larsen is clearly a forward thinker and in merging the multiple earths, he’s created something of a chaotic new canvas on which to tell his story. And, he’s got himself a lapsed reader back on board too. I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

To say the ending is somewhat explosive and surprising is an understatement and an indication that nothing is sacred in this book. Its a fun, filling, sometimes meta read and that’s before the further strips also included in this 100 page spectacular are counted. These include strips focusing on Freak Force, Old School ‘Cop’ Dragon and Dragon’s very first ever appearance from 1982!

As anniversary issues go (and my litmus test for such anniversary issues will always be in comparison to the excellent, jam-packed Superman #400, arguably the best anniversary issue ever!) this is a good one. It’s a promise of things to come, while paying homage to the past, all the time with a cheeky smile on it’s face. 25 years on and savage Dragon still has something to say and sis still a great, rollicking read.

Add this title to my pull list from here on in, please!

Savage Dragon #225 is out now from Image Comics.