Written and drawn by Erik Larsen
Published by Image Comics
PREVIOUSLY: Savage Dragon #199
Well, I started picking up this title again last Feb. with Savage Dragon #193 and have been re-hooked on it ever since. Malcolm has made a successful replacement leading man And now Erik Larsen joins Todd McFarlane as having the 2nd original Image Comics series to reach 200 issues. Quite an accomplishment.
So the main plot of this issue is that some members of the Vicious Circle have broken Dragon out of prison and are holding him hostage in exchange for the release of their leader, Dart, whom Malcolm apprehended back in issue #197. Malcolm and his super-powered step-sister Angel, who has come back to town for this, have to track down their father and battle their way through dozens of Vicious Circle super-freaks to rescue him.
But that’s not all…
Malcolm’s girlfriend Maxine has moved in with him, and the two begin having crazy wild sex, in the shower and in bed, which is all fine and good, and not different than many similar scenes that Larsen showed Dragon in with various women throughout the series. No actual nudity is shown, of course, and they do use condoms, so it’s responsible. But then the night that Angel shows up to tell Malcolm about Dragon’s abduction, she walks in to Malcolm’s apartment and is surprised to see Maxine there. But then Maxine casually suggests that Angel get naked and join them in bed for a threesome. And with barely any hesitation, she does!
SAY WHAT NOW?!?
Okay, I know I missed a lot of issues of this series in the years that I stopped buying it before Malcolm became the lead, but this feels wrong on multiple levels, not the least of which is that Malcolm and Angel are supposed to think of each other as brother and sister. Yes, Maxine points out that they’re not related by blood and only lived together as children for a short time, but still. There’s also the timing of the event. Angel is there to tell them that Dragon has been kidnapped, shouldn’t they both immediately rush out to find out instead of taking time off for some sex first? And even if I’m willing to accept that Maxine is getting a little wild due to fact that she’s been under the thumb of her strict, traditional Chinese-American parents all of her life and is now trying to explore her “freedom”, it still seemed to take very little convincing for Malcolm and Angel to hop into bed with her. And while we don’t actually see the threesome (thankfully), we do get a scene of Maxine showing off Malcolm’s penis (off-panel) to Angel and bragging about how huge it is. And then throughout the rest of the issue as Malcolm and Angel are fighting various Vicious Circle goons in their search for Dragon, they keep talking about the threesome, including Angel describing what it was like to kiss Maxine (“She was kissing me so hard, too. Like she was hungry or searching for gum or something. She was really into it.”) And there’s a line where Malcolm points out that Angel (who’s superhero costume includes a skirt) forgot to wear underwear. Without spoiling the whole ending, Angel and Malcolm do find Dragon, who isn’t quite as “powerless” as was believed. So there’s a somewhat happy ending, but with an ominous cliffhanger.
Y’know, I’m no prude. I swear (and I’ve got like a bajillion gigabytes of porn saved on my external hard-drive to prove it). And, like I said, this series has always been known to get a tad ribald in the past, and never shied away from sexuality but this whole development just left me cold. The threesome felt out of place, like it was done just for shock value, which I hate. And the constant stream of double-entendres between Malcolm and Angel that followed just felt so…immature and childish. I don’t mean the character, I mean the writing. I don’t know what the heck Larsen is going for with this, but I don’t like it at all.
Besides the main story, this issue is chock-full of extra material. There’s three one-page stories by Joe Keating and Ryan Alexander-Tanner about a character named Flash Mercury, a former race-car driver who gained super-powers and became a superhero then a supervillain, and is now escaped from prison and trying to figure out what to do with his life. Following this is a series of 8-page stories written by Larsen and drawn by different artists.
First Larsen enlists the legendary Herb Trimpe to illustrate a story from some point in the past where Dragon still had his full powers and Malcolm was a young boy, where they travel back in time to World War II and fight Nazi soldiers on the battlefield together. That story was very good and action-packed.
CONQUERING HEROES is a story with art by Chris Burnham. This one may be a little confusing to new fans, as it’s about a version of Angel from a parallel universe who is has been raised in an alternate dimension by a midget alien criminal mastermind named Mr. Glum. With Glum’s scientific genius (he creates powerful suits of armor to fight in) and Angel’s super-strength they’ve been conquering multiple worlds in this dimension. This story shows them unsuccessfully trying to conquer a new world but being defeated by the local soldiers and thrown into prison where they have to figure out how to escape. In this dimension it’s also clear that this version of Angel is in love with and totally devoted to Mr. Glum. These characters were mentioned in the main story, so I assume we’ll be seeing them again.
END ZONE! features art by Travis Sengaus. This story takes place back when Malcolm first transferred to his current high school. He’s approached by the football coach to join the team, and despite his reluctance about having an unfair advantage over the other players, Malcolm agrees. Malcolm quickly becomes a star player, almost single-handily winning all their games, but he continues to feel guilty about his advantages. It all comes to head when they face a rvial team that has their own super-human player, a super-freak called Critical Mass, who’s more interested in killing Malcolm than beating him in the game. This is my favorite story in the book, I especially love Sengaus’ somewhat cartoonish art style. It fits the character well.
TAKEN has art by Nikos Koutsis and is about Angel as a member of the superhero team S.O.S. (Special Operations Strikeforce), which includes some familiar Larsen characters like Super-Patriot, as well as several public domain superheroes from the Golden Age that Larsen has resurrected, including the original Daredevil, whom Angel has had a complicated relationship with (this is referred to in the main story). The team is fighting an army of giant trolls who are rampaging through the streets. At one point Angel and Daredevil are captured and dragged underground where they confess their feelings for each other in the face of impending doom.
THE CONTEST is written and drawn by Larsen, with inks by Trimpe, and is a direct sequel to the main story. Dragon is back in jail after Malcolm and Angel rescued him from the Vicious Circle. It opens with Malcolm leaving the prison, as Dragon is placed in solitary confinement. Meanwhile Mr. Glum and the parallel universe version of Angel are watching Dragon from Dimension X, and Glum decided that now that Dragon is alone and “powerless” he can face him one-on-on in a fair fight. So, against Angel’s wishes, Glum teleports to Dragon’s cell to fight. Let’s just say it doesn’t go well for Mr. Glum…
GOOD HAIR DAY is a 6-page story written by Gavin Higginbotham and drawn by Scott James (based on layouts from Ron Frenz). It features two female members of the Vicious Circle. Wildhair, who has similar powers to Marvel’s Medusa of the Inhumans, who is continuing her life of crime and is robbing a bank. The other is Lightning Bug, who can fly and shoot electricity, she’s decided to try to go straight and become a superhero, and when she sees Wildhair in action, the two former friends must battle. Higginbotham has done several backups in previous issues, and seems to have a good handle on writing Larsen’s characters, and James does a good job on the art.
Then there’s a short story featuring Daredevil, written and drawn by Erik Larsen, and colored in a way to make it look like it’s an old comic-book from the 40’s being reprinted. I don’t really have an opinion on that one. Likewise the latest chapter in the Vanguard story, written by Gary Carlson and drawn by Frank Fosco. As I’ve said in previous installments, I tend to skip over them as I’m just not interested in that character. And it ends with a string of various comic-strips, none that really stand out.
I’ll give Larsen credit for packing this issue with content. He’s trying to give you your money’s worth for this anniversary issue. But I have to go back to main story. The fact that I enjoyed the back-up stories more than the main story is not a good sign. And really that whole threesome sex thing just turned me off, enough to make me reconsider sticking with this title. I’ll check out #201, but if this is indicative of the kind of “humor” Larsen plans to introduce to this series moving forward, I may not be continuing to be a fan for much longer.