A few weeks back, I dipped my toe in 1990’s nostalgia and reviewed Wild C.A.T.S. an early Image comic line written by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi. Walt, a blogging friend for the aptly named blog Comic Reviews by Walt, encouraged me to read Savage Dragon. Since I like to take advice from my like-minded blogging friends (and don’t take a year to read and review a series that I recommended like Michael did on Locke & Key!) I picked up Baptism Of Fire, as Walt said it would be the best to start off with. Before I get started though, I encourage you to read Walt’s posts The 90’s Revisited: The Savage Dragon #1 and A Lengthy Stay in the 90’s: Savage Dragon, for his love of this comic will give you a better understanding on the series than my quick review on one volume.
Erik Larsen, the creator and author/illustrator deserves major kudos for developing a character that he designed in childhood, and making it the longest running American full-color comic book to feature a single author/illustrator. Larsen had drawn the Dragon into a few other issues for other comic companies before he became one of the founding members of Image Comics, and it was at that time in 1992 that he truly was able to give the Savage Dragon his own title. At the 20 year mark, Larsen took the time to pull together some of the first issues from the early 90’s and rearrange them chronologically and add a few more pages in, to make this compiled volume have a smoother narrative flow.
We first meet Dragon in a ball of fire, landing in the city of Chicago. He is found by Lt. Frank Darling and brought to the hospital. Darling questions him about his origins, but the Dragon has amnesia about his prior life. His green skin, huge size, and finned head don’t raise that many extra questions, as Chicago is over run with super mutants that the current superheros are struggling to keep in check. Darling is able to convince Dragon to join the Chicago Police Department, and the Dragon proves to be a boon for the department, especially after the most powerful hero Super Patriot is seemingly out of action due to grievous injuries. Dragon is able to take down villain after villain, with epics names such as Bedrock, Overlord, Mako, Hellrazor and Inferno. And no storyline like this would be complete without the trope of the woman he cares for being in danger. We never do find out his origins in this volume, and the Dragon’s angst of always having to kill or be killed, sets up further story lines for the future.
These first issues of Savage Dragon were drawn with the usual 1990’s excesses. The Dragon is muscled beyond belief, the women are sex kittens and Image throws in the obligatory Youngbloods reference. There are quite a few self depreciating jokes throughout, as Larsen plays around with the hero vs villain genre. I adore the fonts used throughout in the sound effects such as brakathroom, choom and skrakaboosh. They were similar to one’s later used in Invincible, with fun interlocking oo’s.
This ‘director’s cut’ volume is a great debut to the Savage Dragon tale. While I don’t know if I’ll pick up future volumes, this was a wonderful introduction to one of Image’s best ongoing heroes, and I’m glad I took the time to read it. Thanks Walt!