‘Dragman’ by Steven Appleby is a 300+ extravaganza that drags you into the eclectic world of superheroes (or superhumans?), serial-killers, cross-dressers, and evil corporations that deal with the business of selling ‘souls’ to the devil. That’s right, in Appleby’s universe, human souls are commodities that can be sold off. But the loss of one’s soul comes at a heavy price of-course.
Plot overview – Amid a string of trans murders, August Crimp who is retired super-hero ‘Dragman’, teams up with his best-friend Dog-Girl to help his neighbor Cherry restore her parents souls. But the soul-trade is a sinister web of corruption that’s not going to be an easy one to solve.
Appleby’s artwork is relatively simpler against the complex story, but the dash of color through the pages more than makes up for the draft-style strokes of the characters and objects. A lot of elements in Dragman reminded me of the popular Amazon series ‘The Boys’, which explores how superheroes abuse their abilities and are part of a big corporate nexus only interested in big bucks. Appleby goes a step further and introduces the concept of ‘superhero insurance’, an insurance that covers the average citizen from being saved in dire situations. For example, if a bus crashes and a superhero happens to be close to the scene, they’ll not save you if you aren’t insured. That’s how commercial the whole ‘saving the world’ business is.
August Crimp makes for a great protagonist, his confusion with his body and the experience of growing up years under the shadow of a strict mom who refuses to divulge anything about who his father is/was, makes for poignant reading. It’s funny how he learns about his superpower – he can fly when he wears women’s clothing. The metaphor is just delicious – giving in to his inner desire of dressing up as a women empowers him. But he hangs up his boots pretty quickly, and lives a regular life, with a wife and baby. The former has absolutely no clue about his past.
It took me four days to finish reading the book, but only because I wanted to slowly enjoy the reading experience. And since there’s quite a lot that’s happening simultaneously, it’s probably best to give the novel a few days. At one point it does feel like maybe the author tries to take up too many issues in one book, but at no point does the plot get confusing or overbearing. And despite dealing with a lot of dark themes, including some disturbing transphobhia, ‘Dragman’ manages to be heart-warming, giving the world a new trans-hero.
I absolutely loved reading this graphic novel. It’s a 5/5 from me.
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