Savage Dragon #250 Review: A Fast-Paced, Character-Driven Trip Through Erik Larsen's Eclectic Universe

Savage Dragon #250 Review
(Photo: Image Comics)

As Erik Larsen is occasionally wont to do, Savage Dragon #250 speeds things up—not in the breakneck, action-orgy kind of way that we saw last month, but in order to bring the story up-to-date, since it unfolds in real time and in a real-ish facsimile of the world. The result is that Larsen releases one of the first mainstream comics to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. It also creates a situation where the backup stories that populate the 100-page anniversary issues Larsen does every 25 or 50 issues of Savage Dragon feel even more at home than usual.

The quick cuts and character-driven stories that shape Savage Dragon #250 feel a bit like a clip show, but one that touches on a lot of important moments that have arisen over the last three months, since Savage Dragon #249 took place in late March, shortly after the pandemic really started to obtain a grip on American culture. Larsen does a good job of balancing the need to fill in blanks going both forward and back—setting up stories to come, while giving potential new readers (he has said there are always at least a few in these big anniversary issues) the background they need to understand it.

It's Savage Dragon, though, so even a character-driven story is going to have some sex and violence—and in this case, the Dragon kids get in on the action once again (just the violence, not the sex). The moment that will have a lot of people talking, though, is a jaw-dropping cliffhanger at the end of Larsen's lead feature (you can read our related interview later today).

Larsen's lead feature is bolstered by backups featuring fan-favorite characters like the Deadly Duo, Flash Mercury, and Powerhouse. Since Larsen wrote the Deadly Duo backups (with art by Greg Kirkpatrick in the first, then Joe Zierman in the next and Fernando Pinto in another), its voice is more or less what you would expect. Joe Keatinge's Flash Mercury (with Ryan Alexander-Tanner) feels right at home, since he has become one of Larsen's most regular collaborators/contributors, although his style of writing is obviously quieter than Larsen's. Peppered throughout the book, the feature is a treat. Like much of Savage Dragon #250, though, it's a solid, enjoyable read for most that will be a great read for the book's dedicated fan base.

Larsen also wrote, with artist Frank Fosco, a Flash Mercury/Powerhouse team-up. A little more canonical than the humor pages by Keatinge, the story follows up with Mercury, a wannabe do-gooder who at one point was the leader of the Vicious Circle as the last major player to wear the OverLord armor. When in charge of the group, Flash positioned it more as a necessary evil, pointing out that a number of the super-freaks of Chicago can't just go get a regular job because who wants to hire a guy with a chicken for a head? The story plays with the idea of Flash and Powerhouse as anti-heroes, squaring off against a surprising and familiar foe (to readers, not the characters).

Keatinge gets in a straightforward story featuring Yankee Rebel, which provides a little social commentary and some old-fashioned fisticuffs. Ultimately, though, his encounter with SuperPatriot leaves the time-displaced Revolutionary War hero a little shaken, in a story that would have felt at home in Alex Ross and Steve Darnall's U.S..

There are of course some backups that feel more urgent than others. Yankee Rebel, as well as a Carl Cosmic story by Larsen and Andy Kuhn, are great stories but unlikely to have meaningful impact on the book goign forward. Meanwhile the Flash and Powerhouse stuff might get picked up on down the line, and a story set in Godtown that pits Thor against Hercules will definitely play out in the coming issues. That one, by Larsen and artist Rich Woodall, has the feel of some classic Larsen Dragon material.

Larsen closes out the book with a reprint of an old Graphic Fantasy story featuring his '80s-era Paul Dragon character—the second time he has done so in consecutive anniversary issues. While last time around it was reprinting Dragons' first appearance when he died in Savage Dragon #225, this time around it's likely just completism—although Larsen did tell us recently that there were still characters from his childhood that he plans to use and hasn't yet.

Talking about this issue, we would be remiss not to talk about the remarkable colors of Nikos Koutsis and letterer Ferran Delgado. The pair are unsung heroes in these oversized issues, not just for turning in four times their usual workload, but for doing so while also stretching a lot of different muscles, matching styles of colors and letters with the old-school superhero stuff, the Godtown stuff, the comedy stuff, and never feeling like they're mailing it in.

Published by Image Comics

On July 15, 2020

Written by Erik Larsen

Art by Erik Larsen

Colors by Niko Koutsis

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Letters by Ferran Delgado

Cover by Erik Larsen

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