Comic Review: The Savage Dragon Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Published: June 30th, 1993
Written by: Erik Larsen
Art by: Erik Larsen, Rob Haynes

Image Comics, 28 Pages

Review:

This was the first real crossover to feature Dragon but sadly, this was just a one-off issue and not a larger story arc. Also, the Dragon and TMNT battle and then team up only really takes up half of this single issue, as the second half deals with another character entirely.

This story was quick and not all that important to the big scheme of things other than having a reason to throw two hot comic book titles together in the most gimmicky, cash cow way possible.

I don’t fault Erik Larsen for throwing the Turtles aimlessly into this book, as Dragon was already in New York City but it just felt kind of random and soulless.

Granted, it was cool seeing five green badasses on the same page together, even if there didn’t seem to be much of a point to any of it. And at the time, crossovers like this weren’t as common, so it was really cool in the early ’90s when I first read this book. I was also in 8th grade.

I don’t want to call this a total waste, as it probably contributed to crossovers becoming more common. Image Comics would go on to do that big crossover with Valiant Comics called Deathmate, which was also kind of cool when I was fourteen.

Still, this was fun to revisit, even if it was an extremely quick read and not much happened.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Other comics starring the Savage Dragon or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, especially the really old school stuff.

Documentary Review: Comic Book Independents (2007)

Also known as: Independents
Release Date: July 21st, 2007
Directed by: Chris Brandt
Music by: Tana Rusitanonta

Bain Street Productions, 77 Minutes

Review:

This was an interesting little documentary.

Mainly, it just interviewed several comic book creators, about two dozen. It focused on what it takes for them to create, how they work and also discusses some philosophical stuff within the comic book industry.

This isn’t a documentary that gets too political or anything like that, which is good as the comic book industry has no gotten incredibly political the last few years. This really just lets the creators talk about themselves, their work and their process. There are some general questions proposed to all of the interviewed subjects but a good portion of this is dedicated to their own unique styles and viewpoints.

Still, this wasn’t a very engaging documentary. Informative, yes… but not engaging. I think that this is due to how things were edited and cut together in post production. The film jumps around more than it should and I get that it is trying to tie together the ideas of different creators in regards to the same subject but sometimes this felt like a collection of soundbites.

It just didn’t seem like it flowed organically or all that coherently. And while I love the subject matter, I was kind of bored watching this.

It’s not a total waste and is worth checking out if you have an interest in comics, especially from the creative side. I just wish that the finished product was more fluid and orderly.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other documentaries on the comic book industry: The Image RevolutionRobert Kirkman’s Secret History of ComicsSuperheroes: A Never-Ending BattleChris Claremont’s X-Men and 24 Hour Comic.

Comic Review: Hack/Slash – Omnibus Four

Published on: June 12th, 2012
Written by: Tim Seeley
Art by: Dan Leister, Erik Larsen

Devil’s Due Publishing, Image Comics, 300 Pages

Review:

It has been a really long time since I first picked up Hack/Slash and even though I’ve read through the first three omnibuses a few times, I hadn’t picked up the fourth and fifth until recently.

I forgot how much I enjoyed this series. It’s perfect for fans of ’80s era slasher films and it brings me right back tot hat special place where I was a young kid perusing the aisles of mom and pop video stores looking for the next low budget slasher flick.

Where something like this could easily run its course and get repetitive, Tim Seely keeps things fresh and new and knows how to write complex and interesting characters.

The stories in this collection start to steer the series in new ways. Cassie decides that her and Vlad need to go it alone, as all their allies are constantly in danger due to their association. Also, we learn much more about the Black Lamp Society and Samhain. Additionally, some of the classic villains from earlier stories start to return to be thorns in Cassie and Vlad’s sides.

I wasn’t sure if this collection would have any cool crossovers in it and they don’t come till the end. There is a really well done crossover with Victor Crowley of the Hatchet film series. That one is then followed up by a crossover with Zombies vs. Cheerleaders, which I don’t know much about but it is a comic series and a card game. I’ll check out some of the comics in the future.

I liked the stories collected here and things felt new again with some of the narrative shifts.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Hack/Slash omnibuses. But They should be read in order.

Comic Review: The Savage Dragon, Vol. 1: Baptism of Fire

Published: May 6th, 2002
Written by: Erik Larsen
Art by: Erik Larsen

Image Comics, 160 Pages

Review:

I recently watched a documentary about the formation of Image Comics in the early 1990s. It was a company that I immediately aligned myself with as a fan, as every artist that I loved at Marvel left and went independent in an effort to buck the system and make more money, all while having the creative freedom to do whatever the hell they wanted.

Erik Larsen left his cushy job at Marvel, working hard on the top Spider-Man titles, and brought his creation The Savage Dragon to Image. In fact, this series was so huge and successful upon its debut that it has had a long lasting effect, being only one of two of Image’s launch titles that continued to be published from its 1992 debut all the way into the 2010s. The other title was Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.

I actually haven’t read The Savage Dragon since the ’90s but I stuck with it for several years until later high school social responsibilities monopolized my schedule. Plus, I got burnt out on comics for awhile, even though I was once an aspiring comic book artist. I think I just picked up on how bad a lot of the ’90s comic book tropes were and when I did read comics, I was more driven to check out all the older classics that were readily available in my comic shop or in trade paperbacks in bookstores.

While The Savage Dragon is still cool, it does fall victim to some of these unavoidable tropes, just as the other Image Comics titles did. It has clunky, uninspiring writing, bad dialogue and some pretty awful character designs, especially where the villains are concerned. I think a lot of artists, whether they realized it or not, were taking creative cues from comic book wunderkind Rob Liefeld in how he loved big odd-looking guns, cyber body parts, metal masked villains with huge capes and well… just about everything that became synonymous with ’90s comics. In this first chapter of The Savage Dragon saga, I don’t know if Larsen even knew where he was going or if this was just more about experimentation.

Dragon is a cool hero and I’m happy that Larsen didn’t try to answer the mysteries of his past too soon. This collection covers his original four issue miniseries before he would go on to have an ongoing series. Enough is established here to get you interested in the characters and situations but there really isn’t much of a traditional story arc in this limited series’ narrative structure. It serves as a four-part origin story with just enough origin to get things rolling but certainly not the whole backstory of how Dragon came to be Dragon.

While I did like my experience in revisiting the earliest Dragon story arc, I’ll have to get back into the longer running series in order to get a real feel for the character and Larsen’s larger vision.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other early Image Comics releases: SpawnYoungblood, WildC.A.T.S., etc.

Documentary Review: The Image Revolution (2014)

Release Date: January 25th, 2014 (Amazing Arizona Comic Con)
Directed by: Patrick Meaney

Respect Films, Sequart, 81 Minutes

Review:

The cool thing about The Image Revolution is that it covers the coolest time in comic book publishing history and, as a fan, I lived through this when it was happening and it was honestly, the coolest thing that my young middle school brain got to experience. I used the word “cool” a lot in that run-on sentence but that’s what the early ’90s were all about: cool.

Image Comics was, by far, the coolest comic book company to ever exist. When seven of Marvel Comics’ top dogs left the company to breakout on their own and go independent, it was like the comic industry’s version of the punk rock revolution.

Here you have Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, Marc Silvestri, Jim Valentino and Whilce Portacio: all heavy hitter creators at Marvel, bucking the system and forever changing the game. These guys were superstars within the industry and after their revolution, became rock stars in pop culture.

This documentary covers why these guys felt the need to kiss away their steady careers and stick it to the man. It also follows the formation of Image Comics, the struggles they faced and how even after things seemed to fall apart, these guys all sort of found each other again, despite their young rebellious attitudes, their fallouts and their intense competition with one another. It also shows how each artist formed their own studios, what that meant and how all of this built a solid foundation for new and emerging talents to ply their trade independently. And truthfully, without Image Comics and what these guys did, there probably wouldn’t be The Walking Dead or McFarlane Toys.

This is an exciting documentary for fans of the comic book industry, especially Generation Xers that were savvy to this story, back in the day. It’s really cool seeing these guys, all these years later, reflecting on the details of how this all went down. While comic industry reporting was great back in the early ’90s and my friends and I knew the story, some details were unknown until now.