The Savage Dragon #160


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The Savage Dragon #160


  • Words: Erik Larsen
  • Art: Erik Larsen
  • Colors: Niko Koutsis and Mike Toris
  • Story Title: Dragon War Part 6, Battlefront
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Price: $3.50
  • Release Date: May 12, 2010

I haven’t checked in with Erik Larsen’s The Savage Dragon in quite some time and I’ll be totally honest here: I’ve never been a huge fan of muscle-bound, green-skinned behemoths. Having said that, there’s something about Dragon that sets him apart from the conventional rampaging monster-hero so often found in modern comics.

Sure, Dragon combines the sheer, off-the-charts power of the Hulk with a healthy dose of Ben Grimm’s heart and humanity but he’s more than just the sum of his inspirations. Larsen’s signature creation harkens back to the good ol’ days of comics, when escaping into a fantastic world of super-freaks, fin-headed police officers, and bizarre plots for world domination was something we all did it for fun and not to have something to rant about online.

There’s something whimsical, if not pure, about The Savage Dragon that reminds me of reading the original Defenders series when I was a kid. Plotlines emerging from left field, utterly bizarre villains that shouldn’t work but somehow do, and loud, bombastic battles that threaten all common sense but somehow make perfect sense at the same time. By today’s standards, in an industry populated by arguably the most sophisticated audience in its history, The Savage Dragon really shouldn’t work.

But it does – really well.

Issue #160 is a prime example of why Larsen’s creation continues to strike a chord with fans. The last installment of the ultra-violent Dragon Wars, this issue witnesses the Dragon dispatching anyone who stands in his way, including family and former friends, in one of the most purely exciting comic book slugfests since the Hulk and the Thing chucked the knuckles in their classic throwdowns. Larsen really pulls out all of the stops as the Dragon we all know and love undergoes a massive sea change and quite forcefully severs all ties with his recent past, embracing his alien heritage as a brutal, single-minded planet-conqueror.

Larsen’s singular vision is undiluted by a team of artistic collaborators and it shows. The writing and art are so balanced here, that the story seems distilled directly from the wellspring of his twisted imagination. The battle rages throughout the pages unimpeded by excessive coloring effects and confusing layouts, relying instead on exceptional visual storytelling featuring real character moments laden with emotion.

On a purely metaphorical level, the Dragon Wars storyline shows the deconstruction of the family played out against the spectacular, fictional backdrop of a comic book world. An odd thing to mention in relation to a comic featuring an issue long battle royale perhaps, but Larsen seems very aware of his themes, even if they’re played out amidst the rubble of a devastated city and punctuated by panel-bursting sound effects.

It’s this ability to throw together seemingly disparate themes and concepts, as the fancy takes him and finding the common ground between them, that shows Larsen’s true strength as a creator. As one of the few writer-artists still working in the field, he’s allowed the freedom and the focus to remain true to his artistic vision, no matter where it may take him.

Larsen has always been like a kid in a candy store in his approach to comics and after one hundred and sixty issues of The Savage Dragon, he shows no signs of ever growing up.

Here’s hoping he never does.

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  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs May 13, 2010 at 2:43pm

    One of the most underrated pulp action comics out there, I my humble opinion.

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