I have been looking forward to First Wave #1 ever since DC first solicited this title. I love classic comic book characters and it does not get any more classic than Doc Savage and The Spirit. I am also a sucker for anything dealing with the Multiverse, so a story set on a Multiple Earth is sure to appeal to me. Brain Azzarello and Rags Morales is a fantastic creative team. I am confident that they will do a fine job with this issue. Let’s go ahead and do this review for First Wave #1.
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Arts: Rags Morales
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin in an uncharted territory in South America. We see a man running through the jungle as he is being chased by something. The man thinks about how he still thinks about “her.” About her kisses and her arms around his neck. That she kissed him like she owed him her life. The main thinks about how he started running. Not to anything, but away. Away from the mess. Away from what he had become. Away from the war.
Some explosions blow up around the man. The man thinks how he did not deserve to celebrate the announcement of peace. The man thinks how he has travelled all around the world looking for anything but himself. Yet, his journey has led him to discover what no one ever has.
We then see a large Terminator-esque robot appearing before the man. The robot picks up the man by his neck. The man thinks how he discovered people, cultures and places long thought dead. That he used these discoveries to make a name for himself. The robot then stabs the man’s right eye.
Suddenly, a flock of birds fly around the robot. The robot drops the man. While the robot is distracted by the birds, we see a hand reach out and grab the man and pull him to safety. The robot turns around after dealing with the birds and notices that the man is gone. The man narrates that he realized that the war was not over. That it had just begun.
We cut to Marble Cemetery in New York City. We see Doc Savage and his entourage arriving. A huge crowd of reporters are on the scene and asking Doc Savage about how he feels returning to New York City after being gone for so long. The reporters ask Savage if he has anything to say to his fans about his father’s death. Doc Savage blows off the reporters.
We see Doc Savage and his entourage in front of Clark Savage, Sr.’s grave. Monk (one of the entourage) says that Clark Savage’s funeral was well attended and that Clark was one of the most respected men in the world. Monk is mad that Doc Savage was not at the funeral despite that politicians and celebrities all made the funeral. Renny defends Doc Savage by saying that Savage needed solitude in order to conduct his experiments. Savage says that the time he spent away was by his father’s design.
Renny tells Savage that Savage’s father succumbed to an unknown illness. Savage then tells Renny to file the proper paperwork to have his father’s body exhumed. Savage says that time is of an essence since it has already been three weeks since his father’s death.
We shift to Wildwood Cemetery in Central City. We see the Spirit lying in an open casket in a freshly dug grave. We see Police Commissioner Dolan and a couple of cops staring at the Spirit. Dolan throws some dirt on the Spirit. The Spirit wakes up and asks what Dolan thinks he is doing. Dolan says that he needs to have a few words with the Spirit.
The Spirit makes a few disparaging remarks about Dolan’s desire and success at fighting crime. Dolan responds that he is sworn to uphold the peace. “Of course, I’m interested primarily in mine.” Dolan then says that he has learned that a man who is worth a great deal to the proper authorities is arriving in town on a steamer and is having a rendezvous at the stockyards tonight at midnight.
We then cut to a newspaper article entitled the “Insight” and written by investigative reporter Jay Denton. Denton writes about the funeral of a great man, Clark Savage, Sr. Denton points out how Clark’s own son, Doc Savage couldn’t be bothered to come to either of the two funerals that were held for Clark Savage, Sr. Denton continues that when Savage did show up at his father’s grave that Savage only spent about a minute there.
Denton writes that fans of Doc Savage need not read further. But, if the reader is searching for insight then to continue reading. Denton says that Doc Savage was raised and trained to be mentally and physically the greatest among humankind. That Doc Savage lives in the clouds. Above all of us. That when we dream, we dream of Doc Savage.
Denton says that he will tell the reader what he saw with his own eyes. Denton asks what kind of hero they worship. We cut to Dr. Savage’s lab. Monk shows Renny the Insight newspaper article by Jay Denton. They are pissed at how Denton portrays Doc Savage.
They watch Doc Savage through a window while he is working in his lab. Doc Savage is wearing a hazmat suit as he prepares to open his father’s casket. Savage is wearing the hazmat suit because his father died of an unknown illness and that the corpse may still be contagious.
Doc Savage then takes off the hazmat mask and motions for his entourage to enter the lab. We see that the casket is full of baseballs with bloody right hand prints. Savage’s entourage all admit that they never saw Clark Savage, Sr.’s corpse because the casket was sealed due to the threat of the unknown disease. Savage says that the red prints are blood made by handprints. Monk slits open one of the baseballs and discovers the baseballs are full of gold.
We cut to a large Russian man with long hair and a beard named Mr. Sunlight. He is sitting on the boardwalk by the ocean and drinking. Mr. Sunlight looks at the newspaper article about Doc Savage missing his father’s funeral. Mr. Sunlight says that tonight is almost perfect.
One of Mr. Sunlight’s thugs reports that Colossi called and said that one of the scientists, William Littlejohn, on Colossi’s island project went AWOL and took some information with him. The thug says that Colossi is insane. Mr. Sunlight replies that Colossi is passionate and needs to be loved. Mr. Sunlight says that Colossi will find Littlejohn no matter where he runs.
We cut to Colossi and his men interrogating the chief of a tribe of natives. Evidently, the tribe took in a white man (Littlejohn) and treated his injuries and set him on the river and handed him back to the soul of the jungle. The chief said that despite his pact with Colossi, the chief of the floating city, that to deny the soul of the jungle would have doomed his tribe.
Colossi whips out a sword and slices the chief’s neck and kills him. Colossi says that this village is doomed and the Red Hand themselves are the doom bringers. Only one child, one old enough to spread Colossi’s legend shall be spared. We cut to a boat down the river with two men from the tribe and a girl from the tribe and Littlejohn in it. Suddenly, there is a huge explosion from where their village is located.
We shift back to the Central City Stockyards where the Spirit is waiting for this important man to arrive. The Spirit thinks about how he was dead for a week and now he is back among the living. People ask the Spirit what it was like when he was dead. He tells them that if they are so interested in what happens that they should die and find out for themselves.
The Spirit talks about his cheap watch that is not keeping proper time. Spirit thinks how Dolan gave it to him when the Spirit retired from the Police force. Spirit says that he is not saying that the story about the watch is true, just that it makes for a better story. The Spirit hops onto the moving truck that is carrying something from the steamer that arrives. The Spirit thinks that the “important” man must be in the truck.
The Spirit opens up the back of the truck and sees a casket inside. The Spirit opens the casket and looks inside. The Spirit then sits by the casket and enjoys the ride until the truck comes to a stop. The truck finally comes to a stop. Two men open the back of the truck. They see the Spirit lying on the floor and the casket open.
The Spirit leaps up and gets ready to fight the guys. The two men recognize the Spirit and tell the Spirit that he is messing with the wrong guys. The Spirit comments that he always messes with the wrong guys. One of the two men says “No, I mean really the wrong guys.” The Spirit started beating up the two guys. The fight spills out of the truck onto the tarmac of an airport.
The Spirit then sees a huge Blackhawk plane near the truck. We then see members of the Blackhawks exit the plane and give stern looks to the Spirit. The Spirit then stops fighting and realizes that maybe these really are the wrong guys. End of issue.
The Good: First Wave #1 was an excellent beginning to this mini-series. Azzarello delivers a nicely constructed issue that is technically well crafted from start to finish. I loved the opening scene with the robot chasing Littlejohn through the jungle. This scene immediately hooks the reader’s attention and sets the tone for the rest of the issue. This scene sucked me into the story and got me excitedly turning each page until I arrived at the end. Azzarello delivered an opening scene with some mysterious narration, a cool retro robot and some action all in a rather tense chase scene. This was a great way to open a debut title.
First Wave #1 had an excellent flow to the story. The scene transitions were well done as Azzarello leads the reader through this issue. The pacing was perfectly balanced. Azzarello massages this story with a steady hand knowing when to crank up the speed and intensity of the story and then slowing down the pacing for more dramatic and dialogue heavy moments.
The plotting on this issue was top notch. Azzarello wastes no time at all putting into place several interesting plotlines in this issue. These various disparate plotlines are positioned so that they should nicely come together into a unified climax at some point during this mini-series. There is no doubt that Azzarello has a clear vision of where and how he wants to progress this story. The result is an issue that is tightly written and moves with a purpose.
Azzarello crafts an intriguing mystery surrounding Doc Savage’s father, his death and the body’s current location. This mystery appears to be the spine that is going to tie all of the other plotlines together. I particularly enjoyed the scenes involving Littlejohn and the native tribe. I found these scenes to be incredibly fascinating. Azzarello also introduces us to Black Canary in the scene where the village gets blown up. I believe the female in the boat with Littlejohn is Rima the Jungle Girl.
The plotline involving the balls full of gold in Clark Savage, Sr.’s casket ties into the plotline involving the tribe in South America. This was a nice touch by Azzarello since the original Doc Savage comic had Savage’s Hidalgo Trading Company funded by gold from a Central American mine given to Doc Savage by the descendants of the Mayans.
Azzarello ends First Wave #1 with a good hook ending. We have the mystery surrounding the casket in the back of the truck and the revelation that the U.S. military is somehow involved in mix. The appearance of the Blackhawks was cool. I have always liked the Blackhawks and I am curious to see what take on the Blackhawks that Azzarello is going to give us on this Earth.
First Wave #1 also offers a story that has plenty of depth and substance. There is much for the reader to chew on and digest as they make their way through this debut issue. Azzarello has several interesting mysteries brewing on this title that engage the reader’s mind. There are certainly numerous different factions at play in this story. First Wave #1 is the type of issue that gets even better after a second and third reading.
Azzarello creates a rich and enjoyable mood and tone to this story. This issue evoked the proper feel of the pulp comic book stories that were so prevalent in the 1930’s. Azzarello is able to create a setting that is three dimensional and immediately captures the reader’s imagination and pulls them into the story.
First Wave #1 deals with two wonderful classic comic book characters. The first is Doc Savage. Azzarello clearly did his research on Doc Savage prior to constructing First Wave. I appreciate all of the small and intricate details from Doc Savage’s long and storied history that Azzarello places into this story.
Doc Savage is basically Friedrich Nietzsche’s superman. Doc Savage is the pinnacle of human perfection and Azzarello picks up on this theme nicely. Doc Savage debuted in 1933 and served as the precursor to Superman who started the age of the super hero. Doc Savage will serve as the perfect “Superman” for the First Wave Earth. After all, Doc Savage had his own Fortress of Solitude long before Superman had one.
Azzarello presents all of Doc Savage’s aides in this issue. We have Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Blodgett “Mon” Mayfair, an industrial chemist. There is Colonel John “Renny” Renwick, a construction engineer. We also have Brigadier General Theodore Marley “Ham” Brooks, a big shot attorney. There is also Major Thomas J. “Long Tom” Roberts, an electrical engineer. Last, but not least, we have William Harper “Johnny” Littlejohn, an archaeologist and geologist.
Littlejohn gets by far and away the most panel time of any of Doc Savage’s entourage. Azzarello does not formally introduce these characters. Instead, Azzarello lets the reader learn about these characters in an organic fashion as we see how they react to each other as well as with Doc Savage. I actually prefer this approach that Azzarello takes with introducing these characters. It helps give the story a more natural flow rather than awkwardly forcing in too many introductory narration boxes.
Azzarello reaches into Doc Savage’s rich history and plucks out probably his greatest foe and only nemesis to appear in two of the original pulp stories: John Sunlight. Sunlight first appeared in October, 1938 and was a Russian-born villain. Azzarello purposely keeps the reader in the dark concerning Sunshine and his plans. This helps create a nice sense of mystery and gets the reader interested in learning what this villain is plotting.
The other classic character that stars in First Wave #1 is the Spirit. The Spirit was creates By Will Eisner in June of 1940. Just like with Doc Savage, Azzarello clearly did his research on the Spirit’s character when preparing to write First Wave. In Eisner’s original story, Denny Colt was a police detective who was friends with Central City Police Commissioner Dolan. Colt was trying to capture Dr. Cobra when he disappeared. Colt then made his dramatic first appearance as the Spirit to fight crime.
Eisner had the Spirit reveal to Dolan that Colt had gone into suspended animation due to one of Dr. Cobra’s experiments. When Colt awakened, he found himself in Wildwood Cemetery. Colt ended up establishing his base in Wildwood Cemetery with his headquarters under Denny Colt’s gravestone. Colt then began fighting crime as the Spirit. What is interesting is that after Eisner told the Spirit’s origin story and revealed his name Denny Colt, his real identity was largely unmentioned again and he was simply the Spirit from then on.
Azzarello immediately picks up on how Eisner handled the Spirit’s character and continues that in First Wave. What I enjoyed was how Azzarello was able to compare and contrast Doc Savage’s character with the Spirit’s character. This was brilliantly done and helped to show how different these two heroes approach battling crime and evil.
Doc Savage has the proper gravitas fitting of the Man of Bronze. Savage is the type of character that immediately impresses the reader, yet, at the same time, the reader gets a cool and detached feeling from Savage’s personality. Doc Savage is more of a stern hero who is not going to engage in the witty banter with his colleagues and opponents.
The Spirit is a different matter. Azzarello gives the Spirit a much more cavalier attitude. While Doc Savage engages in introspective contemplation, science and intellectual calculations based on formal education, the Spirit operates using street smarts, gut instincts and a more impulsive charge in head first attitude. The Spirit is much more colorful as he will engage in witty banter.
The Spirit’s quirkiness concerning his role as the Spirit and how he tries to build up the urban legend of the Spirit is perfect. I loved how Azzarello has the reader unsure if the Spirit really did die or if he is just making up the story to give the Spirit a more imposing and impressive urban myth.
The dialogue and character work in First Wave #1 was top notch. Azzarello offers the ready some well crafted dialogue. All the characters have nicely developed external voices. Each character also has a well developed personality. Azzarello is able to whip up some solid chemistry between the different characters as well.
The scene that I found the most impressively written was the one where the narration from the newspaper article served as the spine for the scene. Azzarello effectively uses the reporter’s article to get the reader to immediately feel uncomfortable with Doc Savage’s character. Being the pinnacle of human perfection easily makes Doc Savage a character that the typical reader is going to be unwary about. Azzarello pounces on that latent feeling in the reader and plays to it rather effectively in this scene. This was an interesting spin on Doc Savage’s character that I was not expecting at all to get in this issue.
Rags Morales cranks out an attractive looking issue. Morales is able to create the proper pulp comics mood to this story. The artwork is nicely detailed and brings Azzarello’s script to life in a fine fashion.
The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue. However, some readers may not enjoy the denseness to Azzarello’s story. Azzarello does not spoon-feed the reader at all with this issue. The reader is dumped right into the middle of this story and has to sort many things out for themselves. Readers who prefer lots of background information and like all the characters to be conveniently introduced and explained may not enjoy Azzarello’s approach with the characters in this issue.
Also, readers who might be picking up this issue because Batman is on the cover may be disappointed. The Batman does not appear at all anywhere inside this issue. It is a case of false advertising. Batman fans who only wanted to read this issue for Batman will probably be disappointed.
Overall: First Wave #1 was a good debut issue to this min-series. I would recommend this issue to any fans of the old pulp comic stories of the 1930’s. I would also recommend First Wave #1 to readers who like complex and dense readers that require some effort on the reader’s part to try and put the various pieces of the story together. First Wave #1 certainly presents to the reader a much different type of story than the average super hero comic book that is currently being published brings to the table.