First Wave Pulps Heroes
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
Publisher: DC Comics
· Brian Azzarello
· Rags Morales
· Phil Noto
Book Review: First Wave
by R.J. Carter
Published: June 20, 2012
When First Wave initially appeared, I gave the first issue a try. Apparently, I wasn't hooked enough because I never picked up the remaining issues. The trade paperback, however, has the appeal of getting the whole story at once, so I ventured in with hopes bouyed.
The premise is absolute gold: a pulp fiction world, bringing together the diverse mystery men of different eras -- Superman precursor Doc Savage; the slightly off his nut Spirit; Richard Benson, the Avenger from Justice, Inc. Throw them together with DC Comics characters Batman, the Blackhawks, and Rima the Jungle Girl (W.H. Hudson's Green Mansions notwithstanding), and create a globe-spanning adventure, and how could you lose?
Well, it took some doing, but writer Brian Azzarello kept at it until he did. Now, I'm not going to get hung up on the time and place of things. I'll buy that this is some nebulous 20th century place where the cops drive 1940s cars and yet people carry cellular phones. And I get that it's difficult to juggle so many different characters -- not just the leads, but all their ancillaries, all the Blackhawks, Savage's entourage, the Spirit's friends and allies, and the various bad guys working for the overall bad guy John Sunlight, an Doc Savage villain from the old days meant to be his opposite number. Sunlight plans to put an end to war by subjugating the Earth with the help of war criminal scientists.
After a perfectly played prologue (the Batman/Doc Savage Special, brilliantly rendered by Phil Noto), we then go several pages before Azzarello finally gets around to what it is the bad guys are doing and how it will impact the world. Up to that point, it's everybody trying to help Doc Savage track down the body of his father, Clark Savage, sr. And by that point, we're just not caring as much. We're wondering more about things like, "How can Savage be such a genius, and not buy clothes that are less prone to ripping? Batman and Spirit don't have this kind of wardrobe malfunction." Or, "Why does Doc Savage think the technology for a robot is impossible, but he doesn't flinch at a computer program that causes tidal waves, or alchemical processes that turn blood into irradiated gold?"
The good part is that, artistically, this is a pulp fanboy's dream -- seeing these wonderful team-ups through the pencils of Rags Morales. And those covers! Once again, J.G. Jones outdoes himself, and we're grateful to have his work included in this volume.
Of particular interest are the backup notes, where we see Azzarello musing on the different characters. Here, I'm with him all the way. Seeing Batman early in his career as a thrill-seeker (and sporting a pair of .45s!) just worked. Despite my misgivings at the end of the story, I found myself wishing he'd found a way to include his ideas for Black Canary nonetheless.
Overall, First Wave is worth the novelty value. Storywise, it could have been a chapter shorter, written a bit more tightly, concisely and directly. I still like it, just not as much as I should have.