You’ve probably heard recently that Erik Larsen has stepped down as publisher at Image Comics. I have no idea if his resignation will help or hurt the company. But hopefully it should help his comics work.
Larsen’s work on Savage Dragon has been getting looser and looser over the last several years. Larsen has always been a fast artist, but lately it seems like each issue of Dragon has been drawn faster than the issue before. Characters have inconsistent looks, anatomy looks even more unreal than usual, and Larsen’s spotting of blacks has even gotten ever more inconsistent.
The stories also seem to be more rushed. Events in this comic have always tumbled past at breakneck speed, but lately Larsen seems often to forget to add the right amount of exposition to his stories to make the stories interesting.
Larsen defends his art in this issue’s letters page, talking about how the spontaneous-looking style is actually pretty hard to create. I can appreciate Larsen’s comment up to a point, but for me, at least, he’s gone a bit far. I would love to see Larsen tighten his work up just a little bit. A few more backgrounds and a little bit more attention to anatomy would add a little extra spark to his work that might make this book more compelling.
For example, much of this issue is intended to take place in my native Seattle, so I was excited to see some of our local landmarks appear in the story. Larsen has been to Seattle many times, so I was hoping he might provide some local color that readers don’t often see. But except for a brief appearance of a news van from KOMO-4 news, there’s absolutely no way to tell if the story takes place in Seattle, Indianapolis, or Beirut. Just a little local color might have made this story feel more compelling.
There are other ways that the lack of detail plays against the story. On page 11, the villainous N’Taka lays out a whole bunch of heroes with a deadly eyebeam. But because of the sketchiness of the details on that page, I had trouble relating the heroes on that page with the heroes at the end of the story. Did any of them get killed? I honestly have no idea because Larsen’s art skips some pertinent details.
But I still gave this comic three bullets, which means it wasn’t all bad. I never get tired of the energy and enthusiasm that Larsen brings to Savage Dragon. This comic is his labor of love, and readers can see that passion in nearly every panel. He loves these characters and he loves this book, and readers can clearly sense that passion.
The backup story by Victor Bridges and Mark Englert is also entertaining. It’s an interesting contrast to the lead story, as it explores how the hero Chelsea Nirvana learns the necessity of control in using her powers. It’s a simple story about learning responsibility, but Bridges and Englert do a nice job of showing how a headstrong girl grows into a responsible woman.
Hopefully Larsen can reconcile his rush for spontaneity with an additional eye for detail now that he has more time to draw.