I was feeling guilty that I hadn’t done an Independent comic in Reviews Of Old Comics. Among the new comic series that I regularly review, Savage Dragon sits on that list. It has evolved over the years, often taking a swift change in direction. One of the first was Dragon leaving the police to join Special Operations Strikeforce. The second major change came in the issue I’m going to review right now.
Of course, this drastic turn came with some exploration of a classic time travel conundrum. The question always is, “If you could go back in time and kill Baby Hitler, would you?” Unfortunately, the paradox comes in eliminating all of Hitler’s evil deeds, there is now no reason for you to travel back and kill Hitler. This was the first time that Dragon learned that good deeds can have horrible consequences.
Writers: Erik Larsen, Abel Moulton, and Reuben Rude
Artists: Erik Larsen, Frank Fosco, and Chris Eliopoulos
Colorists: Abel Moulton and Reuben Rude
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover Art: Erik Larsen
In Chicago, a bomb goes off that robs all superhumans on Earth of their powers. It even restores mutated forms to human once again. Only a small group on Vanguard’s ship in orbit have retained their powers as they watch news coverage of the event.
In a shielded base, Damien Armstrong tells Dragon his grand scheme. Armstrong is the Martian/Human hybrid son of Superpatriot’s daughter Liberty. He will grow to become the world-conquering Darklord. The bomb ensures that his army of superhumans is unchallenged as he prepares to fight a coming war. The first of this army are children plucked from realities where women gave birth to superhuman children. Among them is Dragon’s son with Rapture, Malcolm. Darklord traveled through time to found the Covenant of the Sword to assist in the plan. A small army of Jennifer Murphys (Smasher), pulled from various realities, attacks Dragon. They have apparently allied themselves with Damien willingly. Dragon surrenders and agrees to hear out Damien.
The man formerly known as Mako goes to the police. He offers information on where the Covenant base is located. All he wants is the chance for revenge against the Covenant of the sword. Alex Murphy, who’s been searching for Dragon agrees to Mako’s help.
Jennifer Murphy tells Dragon how she survived and came to follow Damien. The Covenant replaced her with an impostor before she was apparently killed on her wedding day. Dragon is trying to understand how the villain that killed so many people could be trying to save the world. When reunited with Jennifer’s daughter Angel, Dragon is told that everyone involved with him losing custody was working for the Covenant. He’s introduced to a Rapture from another reality that’s been raising Malcolm.
Dragon wants to believe it all, but walks off. When Jennifer tries to stop him, he tells her that Damien stripped Earth of its superhuman defenders. He was trying to save Earth for his people, but being half-Martian, he was referring to the Martians. He also knows that Damien is using some kind of mind control because he is immune to it. Damien confronts Dragon and flexes his overwhelming force at his command in an effort to get Dragon to submit.
The force that was on Vanguard’s ship teleports in with Alex and Mako. Damien orders his troops to fire. Dragon chases after the fleeing child, letting Alex know about the children he has had abducted. Smasher grabs in futility, but Dragon just carries her along. Damien leads them into where Mighty Man and Superpatriot are being held by an adult Darklord.
Jennifer jumps into the path of a blast Darklord intended for Dragon. Zeke and Herakles bust through the wall, occupying Darklord long enough for Mighty Man to recover and throw a steel rod through the villain’s chest, killing him. Alex has rescued the children, but Dragon chases after the young Damien. Damien cautions Dragon against killing him, since his adult self has affected history. Dragon doesn’t heed the warnings and crushes his skull. This tears reality asunder with Dragon and the corpse of Damien lying in the remains of a burning building.
In a flashback story, Super-Tough and his partner Young-Tough are defending a military base from heavily armed forces. While defeating the men, Super-Tough talks about Young-Tough about to join Youngblood. The soldiers on the base thank the duo for protecting the Nega Bomb shipped to the base. He turns to find that his greatest foe, Damien Darklord grabs his young partner. Darklord holds the trigger to the Nega Bomb.
Young Tough frees himself by biting Darklord’s hand, giving Super-Tough the opportunity to grab a gun dropped by one of Darklord’s men. Darklord begins to control Super-Tough’s mind to turn the gun on himself. The stalemate ends with Young-Tough driving into them with a truck, just as the gun fires. His actions saves Super-Tough, who loses an eye.
As Darklord is taken into custody, some of his men still hold hostages, and bargain their lives for their boss. Super-Tough and Young-Tough work to rescue the hostages, but one sees someone else tampering with the Nega Bomb. The hero rushes to stop them, leaving Young-Tough to rescue the hostages, just as Darklord’s men begin slaughtering them.
Super-Tough finds another Darklord detonating the Nega Bomb. Darklord detonates the bomb, apparently killing Super-Tough, and burning Young-Tough’s head and face as he peeks over the top of a trench at the blast. Later in the hospital, Young-Tough reads a rejection letter from Youngblood, apparently due to his disfiguring injuries.
In a third story, Damien Armstrong and Malcolm Dragon travel back in time to destroy the prehistoric ancestor of the eggplant. In doing so, they create massive changes, but do accomplish their goal of having shakes and fries for dinner.
Erik Larsen proved with this issue that he could do two very important things and do them well. He could do a long term plan, and he could wrap up multiple plot strings at one time and do it well. It shows that he has learned the craft of making comics. He shows that that craft is more than drawing cool pictures and neat poses.
Darklord debuted after the formation of the Special Operations Strikeforce (SOS). The team faced him as their first threat. His origins go back to the Image crossover with Mars Attacks. Just as Darklord was defeated, the child of Superpatriot’s daughter, Liberty gave birth to a son conceived through Martian experiments. That child was identical to Darklord. This was an ill omen just after Darklord was defeated.
This issue, and Dragon’s actions resulted in a major change of direction for the comic with “This Savage World” a series of issues that showed Dragon a world where the elimination of Darklord led to Dragon causing untold destruction, both on his own and as a result of various tragedies, like the Martian invasion ending differently. It was such a major departure that introduced the multiverse concept to the series in a large way. This Savage World let Larsen flex his Kirby-inspired muscles. Admittedly, there’s been a lot of that throughout the series.
There are times in the artwork where Larsen’s artwork shows the Jack Kirby influence. He never lacks for dynamism in his action scenes. The style is something that more recent fans, accustomed to the more naturalistic and “realistic” rendering style of artists like Gary Frank, may not necessarily be receptive to. While it calls back to Kirby and Ditko, it owes just as much to Walt Simonson, a little John Byrne and artists of the 1970s. There are a lot of influences in Erik Larsen’s work. His more recent changes in his storytelling style owe a lot to independent comics artists. One of the things I appreciate most in Larsen’s artwork is that it is a living thing.
This issue was collected in Savage Dragon Archives Vol.3. There are likely smaller collections, but at this time, I can’t confirm which ones.
Final Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)