The hook behind Judd Winick, Geoff Shaw and Jamie Grant's new series from Legendary Comics (just as a quick aside - let me just express quickly how happy I was when Bob Schreck returned to comics as the Editor-in-Chief of Legendary COmics, that guy is great. Such an eye for talent) is a pretty simple one - what if dragons existed in our world? Would a small town be able to stand up to such a force? That simple idea makes for a great concept for a comic book, although I wonder if perhaps Winick's desire to have an extra-sized first issue really ended up working against the story a little bit as the end result was roughly eighteen pages in the front of the comic that dragged on the overall narrative to a certain extent. When things get going, though, Winick, Shaw and Grant make a fine team in establishing the various personalities of this little town called Dragon (nestled just outside of Vail, Colorado) that will carry our story for the rest of this five-issue mini-series.
You know something that I really appreciated about this comic? How much thought Winick put into the actual inner workings of Dragon, Colorado. It is so simple for a writer to just toss off a small town in his/her work and say, "Okay, here is a small town. And let's go." But Winick actually asks the question, "How does this small town survive? How does these stores stay in business?" And he addresses it in such a fashion that its not purely academic, but rather it seems to fit purely into the story.
Simply put, Dragon, Colorado is the last place to get gas before the more popular city of Vail, Colorado. Since they have people basically "captive" here, the town decided to latch on to the town's name and kitsch it up and try to get as much dollars out of the tourists they can while the tourists are gassing up to get to Vail. But I love that our hero, Cooper, sees through all of that and just notes that he doesn't need a gimmick for his diner, since a captive audience is a captive audience - they'll eat at his diner because, well, where else are they going to eat?
The comic opens in media res and then flashes back, a popular storytelling technique that works well here. It is quite a sight to see Cooper and the whole town essentially devolved to warriors, trying to take down a freaking DRAGON.
But then here is where the comic lost me a little bit. After we established the cool place that this story is heading, Winick shifts to the aforementioned EIGHTEEN pages of the Vikings and their fight against a dragon over a thousand years ago (but just barely over a thousand years ago).
There is definitely some important things established during this time, mostly the vital info that dragon eggs are pretty much indestructible and dragons are most invulnerable when they're young (they can be killed when grown, but obviously at that point they can also cause a lot more damage) and we also need to show the dragon egg being brought over to America by the Vikings (led by Lief Erickson) where it has hibernated for a thousand years, but I think that pretty much all of that information could have been told in a few pages, instead of a number of pages featuring vikings fighting a dragon...
When things get back to Dragon, CO, though, things perk up with the full introduction of Cooper and the various townsfolk, including Cooper's pregnant waitress, Kelly, who doesn't precisely know HOW to be a waitress (but she's charming as hell while sucking at her job) and the oafish mayor, who keeps wanting Cooper to push the dragon shtick in Cooper's cafe, or at least spotlight Cooper's past as a star athlete.
Things get real when a team of German archaeologists excavate the egg, and a local action junkie from the town (who seems to have a bit of a death wish) discovers them right before things get nuts when the dragon hatches...
The great Jamie Grant does a fabulous job on the colors for this comic, proving a vibrant look for the comic. His choices of hues are strong, as well, but I'm mostly impressed with how well he achieves a bold effect when mixed with Shaw's pencils.
Shaw, for his part, can draw the hell out of action sequences. The opening of the comic is striking and all of the dragon fights are great. However, I had a major problem with his people. He actually has some impressive general designs of the various townspeople (everyone has a nice, distinct look that translates well to being able to distinguish them from each other when the dragon attacks) but the faces are just really rough. They're kind of distorted, honestly. The action junkie character in particular, there's some scenes where he walks in and I'm totally taken out of the scene by how weird he looks. Here's a page with him...
That's just an off-putting looking dude right there. And he seems to pretty clearly not be intended to be a weird-looking guy in the comic.
Something I'm looking forward to with this series is the fact that since it is an independent work and because it is a finite series, you really don't know WHO the heck is going to survive this thing, and that's an interesting freedom we rarely get to see in stories these days.
This series has a good hook and I'll definitely be back to see what happens with the dragon next.