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Fourthman Reviews Doc Savage #1

Written by Lee Newman on Wednesday, April 21 2010 and posted in Reviews

The Man of Bronze that was a prototype for Superman is back.  Is he still relevent?

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:

Doc Savage #1
Published by DC Comics

"The Lord of Lightning: Darkness Falls"
Written by Paul Malmont
Pencils by Howard Porter
Inks by Art Thibert
Colors by Brian Miller

"Worst Nightmare- Part One: The Wonded"
Written by Jason Starr
Art by Scott Hampton
Colors by Daniel Vozzo

The Man of Bronze in his own series at last! Doc Savage is the target of a brazen attack on New York City! Tragedy will strike one of Doc's compatriots, and someone may not survive the opening pages of "The Lord of Lightning!" Written by Paul Malmont, national best-selling author of The Chinatown Death-Cloud Peril, with art by Howard Porter (JLA)!

And don't miss the hard-hitting JUSTICE, INC. co-feature, starring Richard Benson, the Avenger! When criminals abduct one of his own detectives, Benson's icy heart sears with a rage hotter than any he's ever known. "Worst Nightmare" begins here, written by crime novelist Jason Starr (THE CHILL) with art by Scott Hampton (LUCIFER)!


So far, the launch of DC’s First Wave, a pulp Earth in the Multiverse, has been a mixed bag. Well, I guess, really, it’s been more of a disappointment. The idea is sound. Populating an Earth with Doc Savage, The Spirit, Gun Bats, and all the pulpy characters DC has in their stable is an exciting prospect. The problem to date has been Azzarello. That hack of dialogue, that master of unrealized potential. I guess in a way, I should have seen it coming.

But this is a new book, with different creators. It should be safe to assume that the sins of the father do not necessarily belong to the child. Again, somehow, it just doesn’t add up.

Doc Savage is the prototype superhero, the original if you will. He is the Action Hero. Smart, strong, but not super powered. His fortress of solitude and spit curl were the blue print for Superman (well you know, minus the whole alien from another world thing). So this should be an action packed book and it is. Thing is it should have a certain feel that is sorely lacking.

The book opens with the end of another adventure, the reader knows this because the narrative box explains it. Doc Savage enters the scene punching a lion in the jaw then lifting the massive beast over his head to show off his cut chest. Yeah, there should be a certain amount of beefcake, it’s all part of the allure. This is the guy that every man wants to be and that every woman wants to be with.

There is even some deft characterization. Doc is shown assuaging the fears of two kids caught in a crumbling building by distracting them with talk of Baseball. It is something the guy would have done in the old pulps.

There is even a network of sidekicks setup. In other words, all the pieces are in place - so why does it feel so off?

Well, there is a complete and utter lack of exposition, one of the problems with the Batman/Doc Savage Special and First Wave #1. It’s essentially lazy writing. These are old, iconic characters so the readers know who they are right? Wrong. Plus these characters are being placed in a new setting some kind of Mister X like cross between modern day and the 1930's Noir vision of New York. Cell phones and blimps occupy the same reality. There is no time spent on actual characterization, just tricks relying on tropes set in place in Pulp Novels printed more than 60 years ago.

Then there is the clumsy nature of the script. Random lightning bolts are actually pinpoint accurate attacks, this is not on display until the last page. It might be that we are supposed to believe it is a storm like the heroes do at first, but the coincidences and irregularities should have made it obvious before then. Also, the opening segue, while attempting to give the book the same kind of flair that the Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon does with it’s endings as introductions, there is no sense that those events are tied to the events of the rest of the story. Even worse, it never feels like a part of the story, it feels like a scene chopped from another story and spliced in, like a copy of a film that should be scrapped but instead is missing 10 minutes of story.

Then the art is clunky. Porter, as slow as he is, should stick to painting. His pencils are inconsistent and overly blocky. There are weird rings around Savage’s eyes. The kids morph ever other panel. The crumbling building is not crumbling as much as it is closing in like the Trash Compacter on the Death Star. In a post 9/11 world having the top of the Empire State building fall to pierce the road below seems silly.

Oh, I’ll keep getting the book in hopes that it gets better and because I love the character set and want continued adventures, but that’s not the only reason to give this book a try.

The back up Justice, Inc story is pure gold. In his first serial comic work, crime writer, Jason Starr knocks one out of the park. His noirish style is perfect for pulp heroes and he is a natural at a kidnaping/ransom story. This is compelling reading set to a cadence, dark, realistic and more importantly, in half the pages of the feature story - does ten times the amount of exposition. And the art by Hampton is just perfect. Criminal may finally have some competition and its from a back up story?


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