Best Shots Extra
Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 (FirstWave Begins)
From DC Comics
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Phil Noto
Sketchbook material by Rags Morales
Review by Troy Brownfield
Slight Spoilers on . . .
Now this is how you make a comic book, by God. Leading into DC’s pulp-inflected line, “First Wave”, this one-shot hits all the right notes with perfect clarity. The entire tone of the thing is there from the first page, bringing a believable and cohesive universe to life in just one book.
You may recall that DC handled Doc Savage in the past; their take on the Man of Bronze was a solid book in the ‘80s. If you’re not familiar with the pulp hero of over 180 novels, that’s all right. There’s enough information here to get you started, and it’s apparent from the sketchbook material that you’re going to get a lot more as things move along. Savage is paired with, and against, Batman. But this Batman isn’t your familiar Bruce Wayne. For one thing, he’s not shy about shooting his way out of a bad situation. For another, he’s actually as cocky as the playboy façade purports to be in the mainstream DCU.
It’s the twists both large and small that power the script by Brian Azzarello. No stranger to either noirish thrillers or Batman, Azzarello hits this running. From the outset, he demonstrates a solid grasp of the characters and a clear picture of how “his” Batman should be different from the typical version. The pair of heroes ends up colliding amid murder and conspiracy, with the good Doctor initially thinking nothing good of the Caped Crusader. Their dueling ideologies make up the bulk of the plot, as both move to prevent more bodies from piling up.
Noto’s a perfect artist for this. He understands the period aspect, and peppers the architecture and vehicles with the right retro flourishes. His Batman evokes the manta-smoothness of Alan Davis, while his Savage is all presence and sinew. The action scenes are smartly staged, and he gives the whole thing a crisp vibe.
Almost as enjoyable as the book itself is the sketchbook material for the upcoming series. We see some of the expected highlights, like The Spirit, The Avenger, and Doc Savage’s crew. But we also get some real treats: the re-imagined Blackhawks (including a descendant of a particular Loser), Black Canary, and Rima, the Jungle Girl. Based on this issue and the supplemental material, this looks to be one of the most enjoyable rides in comics next year.
If you have even the slightest twinge of interest in this at all, GET THIS BOOK. Batman fans should appreciate the take on the Dark Knight, Doc Savage fans (we’re still out there) should dig on seeing the Man back in action, and the entire sensibility is about crafting dynamic entertainment in a familiar, but refreshed, setting. It doesn’t just reference the Golden Age; it’s gold.