Today sees the release of Savage Dragon #218, a stand-alone story telling "a day in the life of" Malcolm Dragon.
It's actually much more than that, though: it's a poignant and heartbreaking story about how even when you have what seems like a limitless amount of power, not everything can break your way.
The issue catches fans up with the realtime element of Savage Dragon that's been a little off kilter with so many recent cliffhanger-style endings that mean an issue continues moment to moment while the real world ages a month or more.
For most comics, that's not a problem -- but for something like Savage Dragon, time marches on for Malcolm the same way it does for the rest of us reading.
Later today, ComicBook.com will have a conversation about the issue with writer/artist Erik Larsen; for a book that's known for bombast and has made recent headlines primarily because of sex-and-violence-style controversies, #218 is not just a change of pace but the kind of issue that may make some critics rethink their impression of Savage Dragon and Larsen somewhat.
And while Larsen missed Malcolm's own 20th birthday (which takes place on November 8, per the Savage Dragon Wiki), his characters do manage to touch down on both the World Series and the U.S. Presidential election.
As our little way of recognizing the issue, ComicBook.com -- along with Larsen's editor Gavin Higginbotham -- have put together a list of the best one-and-done issues in Savage Dragon's history.
Read on to see the ones we liked best...
...and check out your local comic shop or ComiXology if you want to get a copy of Savage Dragon #218.
SAVAGE DRAGON #7
The all-splash-page issue was both a huge hit with fans and a favorite target of critics of early Image, since the artist-founded company tended to get a lot of complaints in the early days about being too focused on the art and not enough ont he writing.
When Dragon another cop head to OverLord's skyscraper headquarter to arrest the armored crime boss, it's a battle of wills when OverLord refuses to come out and Dragon refuses to go away. There are deaths on both side of the standoff, a ton of blood, and some brutal fight scenes that test the ends of Dragon's healing factor.
It's a crazy, bombastic battle with one of the series' most shocking cliffhangers.
SAVAGE DRAGON #8
Dragon, bloodied and near death following his epic battle with OverLord in the previous issue, must now take on some of the villain's most vicious and formidable lieutenants, looking to make a name for themselves by taking him out of the picture forever.
The issue is at times painful to read, as Dragon slow-motion heals throughout and essentially continues to take on more and more blood and abuse, while doling it out when he can. All the while, there's a subplot brewing that's going to change Dragon's relationship to one of the people he's closest to at the Chicago Police Department, where he worked at the time.
There's something really undeniably badass and John McClane-like about a guy who's bloody and barely functional, but fighting through the issue with no sign of reinforcements in sight.
SAVAGE DRAGON #31
While Dragon does bump into OverLord again here, and we get some surprising resolution on some long-standing plot threads, the thing that most people remember it for is...well...the knock-down, drag-out fight between God and the Devil.
...I mean, it's hard to top that.
SAVAGE DRAGON #81
Having rolled from one major event to another, and finally into space, this one-and-done is full of high concepts, crazy monsters, and spectacular undersea visuals that remind us why Larsen was right at home when he was working on DC's Aquaman.
Savage Dragon editor Gavin Higginbotham, who got the gig by being a superfan who remembers more about Dragon continuity than Larsen himself, says this issue features the "best of the pre- and post-reboot" Savage Dragon.
(The series rebooted shortly before this, but you don't really need to know all that stuff to enjoy the issues on this list.)
SAVAGE DRAGON #144
In the almost twenty-five years that Savage Dragon has been in continuous publication from Image Comics, much has been made of its unfolding "realtime" timeline, which has allowed Malcolm Dragon to be conceived, born, and grow into a young adult during its run.
(Malcolm is currently the main character of the Savage Dragon series.)
Here, we get one of Larsen't cleverest and most notable experiments playing with time -- something that he will occasionally do when, usually after a long storyline, he has to make a lot of time pass in a relatively short publishign window.
Here, a day passes which each panel in the issue, starting as you can see with what is not one of the Dragon Family's better days.
SAVAGE DRAGON #156
After Dragon's apparent death in Savage Dragon #150, he was briefly replaced by Emperor Kurr, a long-dormant personality that was so vicious and brutal that the emperor's own people overthrew him, wiped his brain, and threw him out of a spaceship at Earth.
"Originally the plan was to never touch on" Dragon's past life as Emperor Kurr, Larsen said at the time. "I thought it would be cool to have him never find out. But things don’t always go the way I planned them to go. Sometimes it seems like I’m not calling the shots and these guys have a life of their own and I’m just taking dictation."
Crashing down to Earth was Dragon was born, and he was a pretty good guy for pretty much all of the next 150 issues...but when Kurr took over, he turned his worst instincts on Earth. Once somebody found a way to bring a (more) "real" Dragon back, the two had an issue-long battle royale.
It sounds complicated, but really everything you need to know is in the first page of two of dialogue.
SAVAGE DRAGON #185
The trial of Savage Dragon!
On trial for the murders committed by his Emperor Kurr personality, Dragon is forced to defend himself against what are at least partially true claims that 1) he killed a bunch of people, and 2) he has no guarantee that it won't happen again. It goes about as well as you would think.
Throughout the story, Larsen used a grid format with so many panels that it made Watchmen look like Savage Dragon #7.
"I knew going in that I wanted to use some kind of a regimented grid throughout. A monotonous grid seemed in line for the story, which was largely a trial," Larsen told ComicBook.com at the time. "I had initially thought a six-panel grid throughout was the way to go but once I was well into it I saw that it wouldn't work out. A six panel grid still requires a certain amount of visual variety and this one required a lot fairly static shots, which in a six panel grid format would look even less interesting than it actually was. Also, a larger panel calls out for a background and in a trial that's a whole lot of the same thing again and again. By going with a nine panel box and a larger open panel I could get a bigger anchor panel and omit the mind numbingly repetitious backgrounds. The only real drawback was that it meant drawing a LOT more faces, which is challenging, and that there was less room in each panel for dialogue, which would need to be more choppy and succinct. Ultimately, the trade off was deemed worthwhile. But a LOT of pages ended up on the cutting room floor. I must have laid out an additional 12-14 pages that I couldn't use."
SAVAGE DRAGON #194
While Savage Dragon #156 and #185 were firmly into "Angel and Dragon driving the narrative" territory, since Dragon was dead, or evil, or whatever his current insane status quo was for a while there, here's our first entry in the current "Malcolm era" of the title.
Yeah, there's multiple entries for the Malcolm era. This books' been going for a while, but that doesn't mean Larsen isn't still outdoing himself on a pretty regular basis.
This one is really all about the artwork; it's some of the best fight choreography and some of the best art that Larsen has delivered in recent times, and it's all wrapped around a new character with a neat design.
And longtime fans were rewarded with a flashback sequence that not only featured Malcolm's mom, but her old Freak Force teammates as well.
"Most are elsewhere now--no longer in the Chicago area. The point is to give these stories some context and establish some characters and the nature of their relationships," Larsen told us at the time. "I'm trying to do that in as straightforward a way as possible. Most of the guys in the opening sequence are with the SOS now and will be seen again when they're seen."
SAVAGE DRAGON #199
Not long after the 200-panel issue with Savage Dragon #185, Larsen went the opposite direction and did a full issue where Malcolm Dragon battled demons from the center of the Earth...in double-page splashes.
The fact that Larsen had then-recently changed to drawing in super-sized "twice-up" art style meant the pages for the issue were enormous once the double-paged paper was in place.
"Yeah, they were huge. They were like barn-door sized," Larsen told ComicBook.com at the time. "They weren't pages that were butted and taped; they were one single sheet. So it was really straining my ability to scan to be able to make that work."
Just one of a number of cool visual experiments Larsen was doing around that time, and a kind of visual sequel to Savage Dragon #7, which also came in the first year of Malcolm headlining his own ongoing.
SAVAGE DRAGON #209
There was a lot of joy and a little bit of tragedy in Savage Dragon #209, which dealt with Malcolm Dragon's wedding to Maxine, his very-pregnant girlfriend...and the death of Tierra, his ex-girlfriend, whom he had disinvited to the ceremony.
"It's been a long time since I've done an issue which didn't contain some sort of fist fight and I wanted to give that a break for an issue," Larsen told ComicBook.com. "There are enough little events and emotions which go into a wedding that I thought having the wedding itself take up most of the issue would make for a satisfying read."
Trust us -- this is an issue you'll want to read before today's issue.