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Green Returns to Blue.

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Of all the original line-up of Image books, only Savage Dragon still exists unscathed from 1993 to today. CyberForce no longer exists, and neither does Shadowhawk. Rob Liefeld has taken Youngblood from Image and back again, and left it in the hands of other creators such as Alan Moore and Mark Millar. WildC.A.T.S. and Wetworks have had many different volumes over the years, and now are considered part of the DC Comics family of books, not Image’s. Even Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, which has been published continuously by Image since the company formed, has left McFarlane’s hands until just recently.

But for the 16 years Image has been in existence, Savage Dragon has been a part of it, each and every issue done by creator Erik Larsen. Granted, there were some major gaps in its publishing history, but the uninterrupted span put in by Larsen is something to be marveled at.

In this day and age, where creators jump from character to character and from company to company whenever they get bored, Larsen keeping his interest in Savage Dragon is amazing. But it’s not just interest; it is excitement, as he about to shake things up to bring on new readers. Larsen is returning the character to basics, giving him his old job back on the Chicago Police Department. He is also bringing on the one guest star whose appearing in a book is guaranteed to boost sales. No, not Wolverine. That’s so 2007. I’m talking about the overwhelming, present-day fan favorite—American President Barack Obama.

Found by a Chicago cop in a burning lot, naked and with no memory, the superpowered Savage Dragon was brought on the force to help combat the costumed villains that were running the city. Making a huge, green strongman with a fin on his head and absolutely no memory whatsoever a police officer is a risky prospect, but it worked out well for Chicago.

The first several years of the series existed with Dragon being a cop and the stories being part crime drama, part traditional superheroics. But, as with any long-running comic book, Larsen worked his way away from this status quo.

Over the next decade, the book travelled through a wide variety of genres and styles. The Dragon became the head of a government sponsored team of heroes, he fought a mystical sorcereror, he travelled to alternate realities. And he fought intergalactic menaces. Anything that Larsen could imagine, or any style of comic put out by Marvel in the 70s from which Larsen drew his inspiration, was fair game.

All those experiences the character went through make his returning to uniform a brand new status quo instead of just a creative backsliding. But rejoining the force also provides new readers and ones who remember the early days of the character an excellent jumping on point.

And there should be a lot of people picking up this issue for the first time, if the recent Obama-comic frenzy is any indication. Savage Dragon experienced a bit of this sensation last year, when the title character endorsed the then Illinois Senator for President on the cover and in the pages of Savage Dragon #137.  

That issue sold out its regular print run, and had to go back to press four times for multiple printings. That won’t be a problem this time around. Image is printing double its expected sell through to ensure everyone who wants a copy of this issue gets one. Because, after all, what good is a jumping on point if they only way you can jump on is by paying $50 on eBay?

It might be too soon to call Savage Dragon an important book in the history of comics. But it definitely has the makings of one. And the way Larsen invests his time and creativity into the series might just guarantee the title a spot in the annals of comic book greats.

Also out this week:

New Avengers #50:

Identity theft is a scary reality in the world today. The fact that there might be someone out there, using your own good name to their advantage, and, in the end ruining said good name and leaving you with nothing is a scary prospect.

The Avengers are featuring a bout of identity theft, only this time it is mandated by the federal government. H.A.M.M.E.R. head honcho Norman Osborn, nee The Green Goblin, has recostumed some of the worst killers and villains Marvel has to offer and are passing them off as Avengers.

Well, comic books are different than real life in the fact that the New Avengers are about to do something about it. In this over-sized anniversary issue, the New Avengers are going to try and lay the smack down on Osborn’s Dark Avengers. It’s doubtful that anything will be settled, but the fisticuffs should be fun to watch.  

Brian Michael Bendis (W), Billy Tan  (A), Marvel Comics, $4.99. Ongoing Series.

Blue Beetle #36:

It looks like our yearly “New Year’s Resolution” list will have an empty spot when 2010 rolls around. Blue Beetle was a perennial favorite for the first two years of the list, left off of 2009’s list due to the series already being cancelled.

The cancellation is a shame because this series was one of the best on the market. It featured something that is painfully lacking in a lot of modern comics—a sense of fun. Jaime Reyes became a three-dimensional character (not just a “Latino for diversity’s sake” character like I originally feared he would be) and had an intriguing and interesting supporting cast.

The character will live on over in the woefully underwhelming Teen Titans series, which is worse punishment that just fading into obscurity. All you non-readers should be ashamed for letting this one die. It was one of the great ones.

Matthew Sturges (W), Carlo Barberi(A), DC Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

Hulk #10:

You’ve got to hand it to Jeph Loeb. He’s never one to let continuity or what else is going on in other books published by the company he writes for stand in the way of what he thinks is a good story. Even though the Sub-Mariner is being portrayed as a bad guy as part of the villainous Cabal seen in the Dark Reign event and Doctor Strange is shaken to the very core and about to be giving up the title of Sorceror Supreme, both are the green Hulk’s allies (with Silver Surfer) in a reunited Defenders starting this issue.

Will what seems to be a discrepancy ever be explained? Judging on Loeb’s past writing experience, probably not. But since Loeb using the green Hulk’s “evil opposite”, Rulk, to form an “evil opposite” team called the Offenders was an idea he just couldn’t ignore, continuity might just have to be damned.

Jeph Loeb (W), Ed McGuinness  (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.

Sonic Universe #1:

The most successful second generation video game platforms, Nintendo and Sega, built their legacy around a tentpole character. Nintendo made a star out of Mario, the little plumber who rescued the princess in the original Donkey Kong arcade game. They put out numerous spinoffs and tie-in games using the character and his supporting cast. Mario is the face of the company even today.

For Sega, it was Sonic the Hedgehog, a goal oriented hero like Mario only much faster and much more colorful. And while Sega has left the computer console gaming industry for the foreseeable future, Sonic is still going strong. He is strong enough to support not one but two series from Archie, the second is this series starting tomorrow.

Ian Flynn (W), Tracy Yardley (A), Archie Comics, $2.50. Ongoing Series.

Fantastic Four #564:

Marvel’s first family celebrates the holiday season in this very special Christmas issue of Fantastic Four.

  I’ll let that sink in for a bit. Yes, you can reference a calendar. That’s right, it is February, almost exactly two months after Christmas. And Marvel is putting out a Christmas issue.

When the chronically late team of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch came on this title, they came on stating in no uncertain terms that this series would be delivered on time each and every month. When, of course, this didn’t happen, a sense of schadenfreude came over me, but I resisted comment. But when you come out with a Christmas issue two months after the holiday, and the issue itself is arriving three weeks after it was originally solicited, well, how can you not say something. I think Nelson Muntz said it best, “HA-HA!”

Mark Millar (W), Bryan Hitch (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

She-Hulk 2 #38:

You can’t go a week without a book with a strong female lead being cancelled, and they don’t come much stronger than She-Hulk. Last week, we spent a lot of time talking about the Birds of Prey, now it’s She-Hulk’s turn, to become a three-time loser when it comes to comics being cancelled.

If we were to do a post-mortem on the series, I think what doomed it was Peter David taking over. Not that his stories were bad (heck, I don’t think Peter David CAN write a bad story), but the tone he used was too abrupt a change from Dan Slott’s. The series went from comedy with a fair share of action to action with a smattering of comedy. The break in styles was too uneven, and I could see how a lot of readers might have jumped ship. And even though the more serious tone might have appealed to new readers, these fans are hesitant to pick up any book that has lasted more than 20 issues.

Peter David (W), Steve Scott (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Final Issue.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY and is expecting his first child with his wife Jennifer. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comics Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

 

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