There’s nothing like the manic pop thrill of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon. Issue after issue, for something like fifteen years now, Larsen’s been dutifully chronicling the adventures of the green dude with the fin on his head, along with his various friends, enemies and associates. And while he’s not quite what readers think of as a self-publisher, at least not in the way we think of Dave Sim or Jeff Smith, that’s exactly what Larsen is: a creator who single-handedly pursues his vision for what he wants to do in comics.
The biggest problem with that, though, is that, like Sim, Larsen always runs the risk of being a bit obscure. Larsen understands his characters and their adventures so well and so thoroughly that he doesn’t always slow down to make sure his readers are in the loop. What makes this situation worse in a book like Savage Dragon is that the pace of change is so high. The plots in this comic move so quickly, and the status quo changes equally quickly. Even the inside front cover summary doesn’t help that much in getting the readers up to speed.
I guess what I’m saying is that this book is far from new-reader friendly.
Which doesn’t mean it’s a bad comic, not at all, though Larsen’s art seems especially rushed this issue. Larsen’s art seems rather sketchy, and he skimps on the backgrounds. At the same time, though, Larsen’s work has its usual sense of energy and enthusiasm. The real power of this comic always has been with Larsen’s passion for the story and battles, and that’s really on display here. There’s a crazy thrill at watching the Dragon and Superpatriot defending the White House from an attack by a giant robot; as the battle gets more desperate, Dragon’s determination to defeat the robot seems to grow more intense. The lead story in this issue is a wonderful display of super-hero thrills.
The back-up story, the origin story of supporting character Chicken, is a nice little one-joke piece by Larsen and artist Frank Fosco. It’s a cute piece, a nice inversion of the typical super-hero origin story. It’s a bit long – if it were two or three pages shorter, this story would have felt crisper – but it’s clever and brought a smile to my face.
I hope that Larsen can find more time in his busy schedule to produce more Savage Dragon comics, and spend more time on the art. This is a typically wonderful issue, but I wish Larsen could slow down and give us something really spectacular.