Savage Dragon #200

With a growing trend towards seasonal storytelling in comics, any comic hitting its bicentennial issue needs to be celebrated in a big way, which is exactly what Savage Dragon creator, Erik Larsen, does in "Savage Dragon" #200, presenting readers with over eighty pages of story in this "100-page super spectacular." Larsen writes the vast majority of the issue, but also steps to the side for the occasional assist.

"Savage Dragon" #200 is a full, complete story that checks in across the Dragon universe, giving readers brief introductions to the cast of characters that encircle Malcolm Dragon and his father, the original Savage Dragon. The story in "Savage Dragon" #200 is parsed out into chapters, but the prevalent arc throughout this comic book is complete from one cover to the next, with the exception being the "Vanguard" tale that closes out the issue.

Opening with a twenty-page lead-in tale written and drawn by Larsen, this issue quickly introduces readers to Malcolm, Maxine, Angel, the Vicious Circle and the incarcerated Dragon. That would be enough to fill one normal issue of any other comic, but Larsen gets into nitty-gritty details on multiple fronts. The promiscuity between overly-consensual young adults reads like a serialized episode of MTV's "Real World" with super powers, but it gives readers everything they need to know about Malcolm's personal life and his family situation. Larsen even sneaks in a trio of full-page fight scenes, including a bar fight. The Savage Dragon creator's art is as wild and exaggerated as it always has been, carrying homage to artists gone before, but at the core, this is all Larsen. The visuals are rounded out with Nikos Koutsis' colors and Chris Eliopoulos' letters, making the initial chapter of "Savage Dragon" #200 a technical highlight.

Larsen then turns the clock back in more ways than one with "Out of Time." Written and inked by Larsen with pencils by Herb Trimpe, colors from Bill Crabtree and Ferran Delgado handling the letters, this eight-page story is a smart showcase of throwback page construction and finely detailed, retro-spirited artwork. Crabtree keeps the color palette clean, saving the warm colors for the battle and elects to spare readers any coloring effects or textures. It's not every story that involves a superhero and his super-powered son fighting Nazis then calling it a day for ice cream, but "Savage Dragon" #200 isn't like any other superhero comic.

In "Conquering Heroes," Larsen enlists artist Chris Burnham and colorist Dylan McCrae to handle the eight-page adventure of Mister Glum and Angel fighting an unwinnable fight in Dimension X. Delgado sticks around for lettering and adds in such glorious sound effects as a slimy, melting "BLORTCH!" and rough and rugged "SMUTZ!" around Burnham's heavily detailed work. Larsen and Burnham swing this tale through a complete cycle, giving readers some chuckles and smiles along the way.

In "End Zone!" Coach Franklin recruits Malcolm for the football team. This is a fun sidebar exploring the ramifications of putting a super-powered teen on a varsity team, with lively artwork from Travis Sengaus. Crabtree's colors are a little more muted in this tale, but once Larsen and Sengaus introduce

Critical Mass, the colorist shifts into a different gear for the remainder of this eight-pager.

"Taken," written by Larsen showcases Daredevil (the Golden Ager) and Angel alongside the Special Operations Strikeforce. Koutsis handles art and colors with Toris inking and flatting this action-packed tale filled with outrageous battle action. Trolls and heroes alike are incredibly exaggerated, all of which works to great effect in this adventure.

Trimpe returns on inking duties for "The Contest," where Larsen -- who serves as writer and penciller -- stitches together serials from earlier in "Savage Dragon" #200 as Glum takes the fight to Dragon. In addition to the fisticuffs between these two, Larsen and make it quite clear that Dragon is back in solitary, but he's also been pushed a little too far. Trimpe is a great match for Larsen's story, as his style is very similar to Larsen's, exhibiting for readers yet another undeniable influence.

At this point in "Savage Dragon" #200, Larsen steps to the side a bit. There are a couple one-page bits starring Flash Mercury that are written by Joe Keatinge and drawn by Ryan Alexander-Tanner, but "Bad Hair Day" is a six-page feature written by Gavin Higginbotham. Scott James pencils, inks and colors the battle between Lightning Bug and Wildhair over Ron Frenz's layouts. Impressively stylized, not unlike the art of Adam Pollina, this chapter features coloring that trends more towards colored pencil than digital colors. It's a distinctively different look, and one that works for this adventure that is decidedly different from the direction of the rest of this comic.

The only credit listed for the "Daredevil" installment is Erik Larsen, and that's just in his signature on the lead page of the eight-page tale. Packing off-key colors, this story is denser than it appears at first glance, and packs quite a twist.

Vanguard in "Weird Science" closes out "Savage Dragon" #200. Written by Gary Carlson with art by Frank Fosco, colors by David Branstetter and Courtland Brugger, this tale is the second-largest of the issue. Clocking in at thirteen pages, this story pits Vanguard against Amok and Deathwatch and actually delivers the biggest cliffhanger out of all the stories. The art is grittier and scratchy, carrying an appearance that transmits the pencils of Fosco, which is a great look for this adventure set in a dingy lair.

Four pages of newspaper style comic strips -- including the third installment of Flash Mercury -- round out "Savage Dragon" #200 before the final cover is closed. Taken by sheer volume, Larsen's two-hundredth issue of his original Image Comics' creation is a spectacle to behold, but with a few friends along for an assist, Larsen gives readers an anniversary issue worth closer investigation. This is a decent sampler that has plenty of character-defining moments, but not a whole lot to make any of the characters exceptionally endearing. "Savage Dragon" #200 provides a surprisingly sufficient introduction to a world that has two-hundred issues behind it.

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