Savage Dragon #193 was a significant departure for Erik Larsen's long-running series, as after a year or so of sharing the book with his his father, Malcolm Dragon now takes over the title as the sole lead character. The original Dragon is still around, but he is powerless and busy with his own plotlines, so while he is still a cast member in the title, Malcolm is the clear star now. Malcolm's first issue is a strong display in Larsen's unique storytelling approach. He mixes in two distinct styles - his characters age in real time and he never shies away from the real life consequences of what a superhero would be like in real life. At the same time, though, Savage Dragon is not a cynical comic book. It manages to be realistic without being dour. Malcolm is the rare modern hero where his inspiration for doing good is not some grand tragedy in his youth but rather a simple desire to, you know, do good. It's a refreshing stance to see in modern superhero comic books. Plus, of course, the book always looks great with Larsen's pencils (the colors are currently by Nikos Koutsis.
The book opens with a clever sort of "changing of the guards" moment where we see the original Dragon and the young Malcolm in the past. Here is exactly what I'm talking about when I refer to Malcolm's unique brand of heroism...
However, now that we're in the present day, Larsen doesn't shy away from the reality of what it would it would be like for a guy like Malcolm in high school as a half-black/half-alien teenage superhero. He would be the weirdest type of celebrity, where everyone wants to be around him but everyone knows that simply being around him could open yourself up to serious danger. Here he is at his first day of school...
I like that Larsen is willing to let his characters be jerks at times. Malcolm's friend here says some offensive stuff, but it's very typical dialogue for a teenager. Malcolm, of course, is a good guy so he calls his friend out on it but at the same time, he's still "just" a teenager, so he doesn't stop hanging out with his friend just because he says some messed up stuff.
This is still a superhero comic, of course, so naturally Malcolm gets into a battle in this issue with an interesting villain known as Tantrum, as it is basically a giant super-strong angry baby. We get to see Malcolm's other powers in action, which is nice (he inherited his late mother's ability to project electricity - she was the superheroine known as Rapture).
Larsen's over-the-top bombastic style works beautifully with huge super brawls.
As I noted earlier, Malcolm had been a major character in the series for a long time already (as the original Dragon has been on trial for murder), so this issue doesn't feel like SUCH a departure from what has come before, but it is still a strong step in a new direction and Malcolm seems to be a worthy successor to his father - he is someone that is worth reading about.