Friday, July 19, 2013
Contusions of a Dragonslayer
Jeff Smax's Earth is one on which fairy tales, legends, and myths have all happened, sort of. There are dragons, elves, ghosts, and about a zillion other things, many of them appearing in the background. Cannon's art often emulates the crowded panels of Mad magazine -- here a Troll, there Harry Potter, and over in that corner, Stewie Griffin holding a gun to Maggie Simpson's head.
In the midst of the violent yet comic shenanigans comes the dragon Morningbright, unfinished business from Smax's mysterious past as a dragonslayer who failed to earn his last 30% commission for killing Morningbright because he ended up running away right off his own Earth and onto Earth-10, where he eventually got a job as a cop with Precinct 10. While he's not bright, Smax isn't a coward: Morningbright was a debacle he doesn't want to think about.
Somewhat like the dragon of John Gardner's Grendel, Morningbright can see the future, or at least enough of it to be a real problem. That his powers make him nearly omnipotent is another problem. That Smax has to somehow figure out how to kill him to fulfill a prophecy -- which on a magic-driven Earth is somewhat binding -- is another problem. That Smax and Toybox have to assemble a heroic group while meeting affirmative action quotas is also a problem. There are a lot of problems here. But years before Robyn ever came to Smax's Earth, Morningbright gave Smax a message for her, apparently intended to spook her. Why?
Simultaneously zippy and dense, Smax is a lot of fun -- and the dragon is a fascinating creation both in the writing and in Cannon's depiction of it. Morningbright is super-creepy, especially once the specific nature of his hoard of gold finally becomes clear. Recommended.