There's something in "Savage Dragon" #177 to offend everyone. Whether it's the introductory scene captioned to decry America's burial-at-sea for Osama Bin Laden, a Hulked-out Bin Laden kicking in New York City skyscrapers, or the idea that Bin Laden had returned to finish a job limited to the destruction of New York City and not the entire western way of life - well, everyone can walk away from this comic ticked off if they want.
Or, if you want to take the absurdity of this issue at face value, you can sit back and have a fun read in the classic comic book tradition of superhero characters beating up tyrants, dictators, despots, and despised leaders. There's a catharsis at work here.
The issue starts by explaining how it is that Bin Laden went from his burial at sea to rising from the ocean as a green-skinned monster, wreaking havoc. Erik Larsen ties it in nicely to the earthquakes in Japan and uses that to humorous effect when Bin Laden reaches land.
The big set piece of the issue is the showdown in the streets of New York City between Bin Laden, Angel and Malcolm Dragon, and the U.S. military. I'm not sure how quickly the military could roll an armored tank into the middle of Manhattan, in reality, but this is an absurd comic, so I bought it. The ultimate destruction of Bin Laden is humorous and over-the-top, practically laid out to be accompanied in the background by the swell of a "God Bless America." In the end, the destruction and seriousness of the battle never feels all that great, but sometimes it's OK to have a superhero fight that isn't about the end of the world and life as we know it.
In the middle of all that, the on-going soap opera of "Savage Dragon" continues on, with an appearance by the original Dragon to check in on his two kids. It's a huge exposition dump that helps clarify the current status quo for new readers, or those who've found themselves lost over the years. It also has the single greatest caption box in the history of superhero soap operatics to explain Dragon's wife - not the first dead one, but the second dead one. Or is it the third alternate version?
Larsen even fits a page into the middle of this madness to move along the subplots regarding Daredevil's little friends, The Little Wise Guys, and why they're not growing up. Forget the "Hulked Up" Bin Laden, in that page you get a very Reed Richards-ish doctor diagnosing the characters. Later on, the General ordering tanks to open fire bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain Hulk supporting cast member, mustache and all. "Dragon" is a title that stands on its own, but one that die-hard superhero readers might find particular delight in.
Long time fans will enjoy seeing an older and grayer Jerry Rivers at the end of the issue, leading into a tease for another future storyline. Larsen may be best known for his art, but continues to juggle numerous balls with his storylines, weaving Chris Claremont-level subplots through long stretches of the series. That sometimes works better than others, but right now things feel constrained enough to keep an easy handle on it.
"Savage Dragon" #177 will be an eye-catching book on the stands this week, behind its retro-colored cover and giant Bin Laden caricature, but the contents inside back it up. The final result for the issue is a fun one-off supervillain fight surrounded by the on-going subplots and character bits being pushed forward. You won't get a big "Ah-Ha!" moment in here, but there's still lots to enjoy.