REVIEW: “Doc Savage” #1

(Dynamite Entertainment, 2013)

Review by Kenneth Kimbrough

Writer: Chris Roberson
Pencils and Inks: Bilquis Evely
Colors: Daniela Miwa
Letters: Rob Steen

Let me preface this review by saying that I only have a passing knowledge of Doc Savage. That’s not to say that I don’t know anything about him. I know that he represents peak physical and mental condition, that he believes in reforming criminals rather than arresting them, and that he travels the world as the progenitor of pulpy adventure heroes. Without Doc Savage, comics as we know them would not be the same.

That being said, I’m not in on many of the more esoteric aspects of Doc Savage’s mythology. If there were easter eggs in this issue, they more than likely went over my head. And perhaps what I’m trying to say with all of this prefacing is that for a first issue, ostensibly a place to jump on, I didn’t feel very welcome.

That’s not to say that this wasn’t a solid book on its own. Evely’s art is reminiscent of Patch Zircher’s work on Mystery Men, and I can’t help but love seeing adventure books with guys in suits. I wish she had been given a few more action scenes though, as I’m curious to see how she might handle them. Perhaps give Evely some work on the Rocketeer? Hint, hint, IDW.

As for this issue’s script, I was completely unaware that this was a flashback issue. I had never seen Doc Savage without his shaved head, and I was under the impression that the main character was his son working with Doc Savage’s old crew. (There’s a line where Doc says, “Please, my father was ‘Doctor Savage.’”) It also didn’t help that the captions are delivered in third person. But after I had figured out that the main character was indeed Doc Savage himself, I had a clearer understanding of the issue.

Despite my misunderstandings, I can see what Roberson wanted to accomplish with this issue. It’s a very straightforward done-in-one in which Doc and his crew must investigate the connection between a series of unprovoked riots and a mysterious aurora floating above the city. By all accounts, this issue follows the formula well. The explanation of the mystery is satisfying and you can tell that Roberson put forth the effort to make it that way.

However, I mentioned that this issue was somewhat impenetrable to me despite being a book that does what it needs to. This mostly stems from what appears to be a lack of clear stakes. Yes, the riots are bad and people are getting hurt, but there’s so much focus placed on Doc and his crew that what’s at stake isn’t so much human lives as it is the solution to an interesting mystery. As for Doc’s crew, I had a difficult time distinguishing the five men apart from their visual differences. They’re all scientists, and the only one who gets anything distinct to accomplish is Long Tom, the civil engineer. With all this in mind, my misgivings might not be so much with this issue itself—which I continue to stress is fairly enjoyable—but the pulp format. I want more character-driven story when this one is clearly more plot-driven, which is typical of many pulps.

If I were more of a Doc Savage fan, I’d probably pick up the next issue. And if you’re one yourself, I can’t see how you could be steered wrong into buying Doc Savage #1, which is solicited as being the first of a decades-spanning story. But seeing as to how I’m currently backlogged on many of my other comics, it may be a while before I read another Doc Savage adventure.

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Follow Kenneth Kimbrough on Twitter:  KMoneyForever

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