Today, I’ll be reviewing the latest issue of Erik Larsen’s long standing Image Comic series, Savage Dragon. 

Before we dive into the review of issue #255, I must admit that I am a complete Savage Dragon novice. I haven’t seen the short lived animated series, and before today, I’d never read an issue of the series. I felt that reading the 1992 three-issue miniseries, Savage Dragon, and issues #0, #0.5, and #1 of the ongoing series of the same name which comprises the core Savage Dragon story would be a good start.

I thoroughly enjoyed all of those issues, except for issue #0, which was both gratuitous and overly revealing. For newcomers to the series like myself, it’s important to understand that Savage Dragon is a superpowered member of the Chicago Police Department who suffers from amnesia.

This loss of memory is not explained for a very long time, unless you read issue #0, which came out in 2006, over a decade after the ongoing series began. Personally, I would recommend that you skip this one if you’re just starting the series.

GETTING STARTED WITH SAVAGE DRAGON

Savage Dragon

Generally speaking however, this fast-paced, brooding yet accessible nineties comic book hit the spot. Dragon is flawed but likable, the world is already filled with superhumans and monsters, and the energy is quite lively. Dragon is clearly set up as an anti-hero in a world filled with evil far worse than himself (most likely…) and Larsen both draws and writes that world damn near to perfection.

Much like watching The Phantom Menace, enjoying Savage Dragon means accepting and embracing the story for what it is – a product of its time. This is the era of comics where everything was “grimdark”, pockets were far too present, and mullets were the status quo among the Avengers and the Justice League. The only question is, “can you dig it?” 

The bombastic, explosion-heavy hardboiled crime procedural meets superheroic shenanigans combo really works for me, but it may not for you. Proceed at your own discretion.

Unfortunately, Savage Dragon #255 is far too complicated and ambitious for me, a Savage Dragon amateur, to fully comprehend. Another aspect of this comic that’s important to understand is the way that time works. In their universe, time matches our time, and moves along accordingly. This stands in stark contrast to the sliding timescale models used by Marvel and DC.  

SAVAGE DRAGON PLAYS OUT IN REAL TIME

Savage Dragon

What that jargon means is that Savage Dragon has been aging alongside us for the past twenty-seven years or so, often experiencing similar world events. For example, both Joe Biden’s presidency and the COVID-19 pandemic are mentioned in this issue of Savage Dragon

The second and more pressing issue with this approach is the level of inaccessibility present to a new reader. Now, I’m not saying that anyone should try and jump onboard a comic book at issue #255. That’s as bad an idea as you’d expect it to be. From time to time, however, a great comic book solves the problem of late-entry accessibility. We at The Illuminerdi hold those comics in the highest regard.

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While this didn’t quite meet that standard of quality, the issue was enjoyable all the same. While the plot could be confusing, I could still pick up on the basic plot points, and several lines of expository dialogue helped get me more up to speed. I have no doubt that this comic would be very enjoyable to the Savage Dragon veteran, but that’s not my status…yet.

This issue presented me with a cosmic, highly ambitious world, packed to the brim with exciting possibilities. There were several callbacks to the earliest issues of the series, (Poor Mako…) multiple members of the Savage Dragon family, and space opera-esque flourishes. 

THE ARTWORK OF SAVAGE DRAGON MYSTIFIES

Savage Dragon

Larsen’s artwork is a bit happier, smoother, and more upbeat than in his earlier years, but it’s gorgeous all the same. You don’t spend your whole life (Larsen created Savage Dragon as a child) drawing the same character without acquiring some serious skill along the way. 

Reading this issue was like watching a beautiful orchestra performing in symphony…but with earplugs in. I could tell that the art in front of me was something unique and wonderful, but I couldn’t experience it yet. 

While I can’t recommend this series to new readers, or accurately assess it for dedicated Savage Dragon fans, I can give one piece of advice. Follow my lead, and start reading the beginning of this now 255-issue long series from the top. Something magical waits for us just around the corner. 

Fin Addicts, what did you think of Savage Dragon #255? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media!

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