Friday, March 18, 2011

Botch Sauvage


First Wave, written by Brian Azzarello, illustrated by Rags Morales, Ed Bryant and Phil Winslade (2010-2011): My God, what a fantastic fucking botch DC Comics' resurrection of pulp hero Doc Savage in his own weird little comic-book universe turned out to be. Cancellation now seems to be set in stone, and all I really care about is whether or not DC will still publish the Showcase compilation of Marvel's great, short-lived Doc Savage B&W magazine-sized comic of the mid-1970's. Now that was a resurrection!

It looked so promising to begin with, as Doc, an alternate take on Batman, the Spirit, the Blackhawks, the Avenger, and a number of other reconfigured DC characters would fight evil in a reimagined 1930's where the inventions of Doc and other heroes and villains had essentially started the 21st century 70 years early.

Unfortunately, grimness and moral murkiness dominated -- it all felt like a reboot from the grim 'n gritty late 1980's. Furthermore, this introductory miniseries took forever to get anything going in the way of an interesting plot, and was perennially late to boot (as in, close to 18 months for 6 issues). And here and in the First Wave Doc Savage series, fun was pretty much nowhere to be found. Instead, we got a grim slog and a paucity of likeable characters.

I suppose a further problem arose from the concept itself (that is, a universe reconfigured by Doc's presence). Alan Moore's Doc Savage homage, Tom Strong, pretty much followed the same premise. The difference lay mainly in the fact that Alan Moore was writing that in his full jolly metafictional mode, making Tom Strong's adventures a delight whereas NuDoc just kept giving me more and more of a headache.

Future pulp reboots should probably leave Azzarello out of the mix -- I can think of few good contemporary comic-book writers less suited to updating a frothy pulp hero originally aimed at a readership of 14-year-olds. Tom Strong is awesome, though, as are the appearances of Doc-like heroes in Warren Ellis's Planetary and Dave Stevens' Rocketeer. Buy that stuff instead. It may be time for the original Doc to be reabsorbed by the eternal slurry of the pop underverse. Not recommended.

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