I should admit right up front that I've been a fan of Doc Savage for a long time.
When I was a teenager I started picking up the Bantam paperbacks, fascinated by those amazing painted covers by James Bama. Over the years I managed to track down all of them except for that last double novel, #125, which tends to go for ridiculous sums. (If anyone has a copy they'd like to sell, drop me a line.)
Doc is the prototype for Superman, of course (and Batman owes him a dinner, too). Created in the early '30s, Clark Savage, Jr. has trained his body and mind to near-perfection. With his five companions, each of whom has a specific skill, he roams the world, having adventures, solving mysteries and fighting evil. Did I mention that he has a Fortress of Solitude at the North Pole?
Doc has made the move over to comic books more than once, of course, with varying degrees of success. I thought the Doug Moench-written black-and-white magazines from Marvel were good fun, and DC had a decent run later on.
Happily, he's now back and appearing in a new line of pulp-based comics from DC called First Wave.
Sadly, the issue is all setup and little story. It's set in a unique world where there are apparently no superpowers, but plenty of colorful characters. It also seems to be set in a unique world - it's not the '30s or '40s, but it doesn't quite seem modern, either, despite the inclusion of cell phones and tape recorders. I'm not sure how I feel about that - we'll have to see how it pans out.
Here we meet a new Batman, one who carries pistols (just like a certain other shadowy pulp hero) and is just starting on his crime-fighting career, operating outside the law.
The Doc Savage we meet is very much in the style of the original - a reluctant celebrity who is a virtual force of nature. The scenes where he and Batman tangle are a treat - but sadly brief.
I like Phil Noto's art, although it's almost too clean for this kind of pulpish adventure. But it is creative and I like his visualization for both Doc and Batman.
It's the story that doesn't quite deliver - it's all just an excuse to have the two title characters meet. I was hoping for more than a mundane murder mystery.
Of course, this is just the beginning of the First Wave series, and the sketches in the back of the book hold a lot of promise for future stories. Hopefully things will get bigger and bolder from here.
Or at least pulpier.