You wouldn’t think a comic book that involved a zeppelin battle over New York City, lightning harpoons, a battle in the sky, and Doc Savage and his crew would be boring, would you? Well, it is here, and it demonstrates how you need more than a few cool storytelling features to make a story worth reading.
Only a couple issues of the actual “First Wave” series have come out, and in that main series Brian Azzarello seems to have a distinctive take on the pulp characters. It doesn’t mesh with the characters presented here at all (nor does his take on the Spirit match with “The Spirit” comic), and that doesn’t necessarily matter, but it does feel like a weird publishing decision. And it makes the “First Wave” banner at the top of this comic seem completely irrelevant, as it signifies nothing more than “here is a character who is also in some other series, even if it’s a completely different version of the character.”
The Doc Savage presented here is just a fighter. A guy who can punch well. Though Paul Malmont throws in some token lines of dialogue to show that the character’s supposed to be intelligent (like how he can accurately judge the length of a rope, no kidding), this Doc Savage is a bland action hero. Yes, he has a support team helping him out, but even though they have distinctive clothing, they are just as bland as Savage.
The big battle in this issue, which ends the Malmont run on the series, doesn’t have any weight, and even though it’s an enormous set-piece, it doesn’t feel like it matters. It’s just people yelling and punching and declaring their intentions, over and over.
The “Justice Inc.” back-up by Jason Starr and Scott Hampton is better, but even after four issues, I don’t have enough information about the characters or their world to know who they are or what they really want. But at least its a moody evocation of mystery and intrigue. The Doc Savage story doesn’t even give us that, with Howard Porter’s blocky action and grotesquely overmuscled figures.
There’s a bit at the end of “Doc Savage” #4 in which Doc Savage stands atop the wreckage and gives a speech. A speech that ends with the words, “we’ll have to fight to give the people a reason to believe in us again.”
That’s true. But after four issues of fighting, I still don’t see a reason to believe. Not at all.