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If you’ve followed Major Spoilers for any length of time you know two things; 1) I’m a big Doc Savage fan, and 2) I’m a bigger Batman fan.  With DC’s release of Batman/Doc Savage Special #1, one would think I’d be in seventh heaven, on a high no other fanboy could achieve.  You can think whatever you want, that doesn’t necessarily make it so.

bmdsav_cv1_copy.jpgbmdsav_cv1_var_copy.jpgBatman/Doc Savage Special #1
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Phil Noto
Sketchbook material and variant cover by Rags Morales
Cover by JG Jones

As I get into this, I think a little timeline is needed to put some things in perspective in regards to this issue. It may explain why some things appear in the issue, and dates on others, but it also causes much confusion.

  • 1905 – Colt semi-automic .45 caliber pistol introduced
  • 1931 – Chateau Marmont reopens as a hotel (reference used as the Gotham Grand)
  • 1933 – Doc Savage debuts
  • 1934 – Cierva C.30 Autogyro (seen on the cover) is introduced
  • 1939 – First appearance of Batman
  • 1939 – World War II begins
  • 1940 – Batman stops using guns with the introduction of Robin
  • 1941 – United States of America enters World War II
  • 1945 – World War II ends
  • 1949 – Final Doc Savage Magazine published (181 issues total)
  • 1964 – Bantam Books reprints original Doc Savage stories, and Doc gets the recognizable James Bama treatment.
  • 1966 – GE’s Porta Color television introduced, one of the early inexpensive color televisions, prompting the broad acceptance of color TV
  • 1987 – DAT Tape introduced
  • 1989 – Construction of Los Angeles U.S. Bank (Liberty) Tower completed

Since Doc Savage ponders the nature of life after witnessing the death of someone during “the war”, and considering writer Brian Azzarello places Batman in his early twenties, and Doc Savage is said to be in his mid-thirties in this series. That would place this story squarely in the late 1950s. Why in the heck would you then include references to story plot points that were already out of date, or items that had not yet been invented? One might explain away all this nerd/fanboy nonsense I’m partaking in, by saying this story takes place in the new DC 52 Universe, on a world where the old and the new mix together in a fantastical way that makes the story timeless.  The creators even went so far as to purposefully not put a date on the numerous papers seen in the issue, but purposefully include ads that show food prices that could lead a really interested reader to a specific date. That timeless concept might actually work if calling out these items in the story didn’t end up pulling the reader out of the story itself.  As much as I wanted to enjoy the story, I kept getting pulled out by these nit-picks and it nearly ruined the reading experience for me.

It took me three readings of the issue and completely ignoring the art by Phil Noto in order to follow the story.  In it, Doc Savage feels he is compelled to go to Gotham City to put an end to the Batman scare that is threatening the city.  Batman is blamed for the shooting death of a local porn film producer, because Batman has been spotted with a pair of .45s, and opening fire on bad guys.  While many, like James Gordon, are excited by the arrival of the Man of Bronze, others, like Bruce Wayne, take the opportunity to play the offended drunk playboy in order to get Doc to take a poke at him to judge how he fights.  Fortunately, Doc proves Batman’s innocence by the end of the issue, and the two have a conversation over their methods of fighting crime. There is an understanding between the two, but this is not an Earth-DOC version of the World’s Finest.

Azzarello does a pretty good job of writing, and trying to show how the two heroes are similar in their focus on crime, but in trying to show their similarities he flips their goals to create an odd moment in the tale.  Doc sees himself as a protector of the world, using his skill and abilities for the betterment of all.  However, he takes time away from a more serious personal matter (that of dealing with the recent death of his father, which places this story before the original Man of Bronze tale written by Lester Dent), to investigate the single murder of a man.  Batman, on the other hand, is concerned about protecting his city, but ends up investigating and discovering The Golden Tree, a global organization that will feature prominently in future First Wave tales.  It takes the two talking at the end to get their priorities back in order and to gain a greater realization on what it means to fight crime.  While Batman says, “Leave Gotham to me, you save the world,” I’m not sure either character realizes there was a priority switch.  I’m probably reading more into this than the normal person, but again I have a great interest in seeing Doc Savage succeed than the normal reader.

The mystery of the murdered porn producer only serves as the MacGuffin to get Doc to Gotham, as it only takes Doc two observations on two different occasions to deduce that Batman is not the killer, and one news conference to convince the people of Gotham.  What is interesting in the issue is how each goes about their particular investigative methods.  The young Batman is all about guns and muscle, while Doc is all  science and observation.  There are some tough spots in the dialogue, especially during Jimmy G’s speech on the nature of Batman and Doc, as one really doesn’t expect Gordon to be lit up.  I like that moment, but it did take a moment to recognize what was going on.  Likewise, I really like how readers are lead to believe the opening monologue is that of Batman, only to turn the tables on the reader by revealing it is the private thoughts of Doc.

While I complained about the visuals of historical elements taking me out of the story, Phil Noto’s work is spectacular.  I like how Doc Savage looks like a cross between a young Steve Holland (the model for the 60s Bama covers), Ron Ely, and Chuck Connors, while Bruce Wayne looks like a very young Cary Grant.  The facial work by the artist is also something to pay attention to, as you can see the younger, and smaller, Bruce Wayne take on the facial expressions of the older, and bigger, Savage in their exchanges.  It’s a nice touch that helps in the character development.  Of course the rest of Noto’s work in the issue is excellent, whether he is drawing faces, cars, or scenery.  It’s just that darn mixing of technology from different time periods that bothers me.

Storywise, Batman/Doc Savage Special #1is interesting in that it flows and features two iconic heroes meeting up, but stumbles in the execution.  I was disappointed that the only member of Doc’s Fabulous Five that appeared in the issue was Renny, but it is understandable given the “timeline” of events.  In the art department, Noto’s work continues to blow me out of the water, and I can’t wait to see if he’s allowed to tackle Doc’s cousin Pat.  While everything we know about Doc Savage and the first month of Batman’s war on crime should put the story in the 1930s and early 40s, the continued time slips bother me.  After reading this issue, I’m a little concerned about what DC has in store for Doc and the rest of the First Wave heroes, as I don’t want to see a repeat of the 1987 series.  DC has a great concept going on here, it’s great to see Doc Savage and a really young (and alive) Bruce Wayne kicking around the pages of comic books again.  With all the positive moments in the issue, the problem parts bring the overall experience down to 3.5 out of 5 Stars.

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The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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17 Comments

  1. Bean525
    November 12, 2009 at 11:46 pm — Reply

    I’d give this book the 3.5 slices/stars rating as well, but my hang ups were different than yours, and I hope things get straightened out during First Wave proper. I didn’t have a problem with the wonky timeline, but a lot of that had to do with reading the Behind the Scenes section in the back.

    What I didn’t like about this book was the fact that in all honesty, not too much actually went on. I mean, I understand that this book is really supposed to be a teaser into the world of the First Wave, but I like my one-shots to have resolutions, and this one just left things wide open. It was calling out like “Hey, we’re full of potential here. Can’t you see our potential?” I did see it, but I also would have liked to see some of it fulfilled.

    That being said, I did enjoy what was here, I guess I just wanted more. I actually think that the Behind the Scenes section did more to entice me to pick up more book in this line than the actual story did. It showed vignettes of a lot more of the characters, their motivations, and it fleshed out the world itself a bit.

    I’m not a big art guy, but I did enjoy Noto’s art. I’m not sure what I would call the technique, as it looks like a pulp-y cover style of art combined with a more traditional comic book-y feel, but it worked for me. I think a big part of it was the coloring, where the outlines for figures weren’t thick black lines, but rather a more muted style that looks like painted work without actually being so if that makes sense.

    My rambling sense is tingling, so I’ll cut my comments off here, but I am certainly not disappointed I picked this book up, and truly am looking forward to more in the future, if it can live up to its massive potential.

    • November 12, 2009 at 11:50 pm — Reply

      Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the issue, hence the rating… and I would agree with your points as well.

  2. Aerspyder
    November 13, 2009 at 7:49 am — Reply

    So, you hated the book but loved it? Also, you hated the art but loved it? Are you just gushing over a Bat/Doc team-up so much that despite its flaws you are giving it a pass? I expected better from you.

    • November 13, 2009 at 8:00 am — Reply

      No, go back and read what I wrote. I never said I hated the book. I said it was a good book with some wonderful moments, that had flaws in the execution from the writing stand-point. Also, I never said I hated the art, I said the inclusion of modern technology in a story set in the past was a distraction, but the art is wonderful.

      You say you expect more from me, but since you’ve never posted a comment on the site before, and since you really don’t know me, it is hard for someone to say you expect better from ME. It’s kind of like saying, “As a reader, I expected more from you”, and since I’m not that kind of ass, I’ll just leave you with this thought, “As always, your mileage will vary…”

      • November 13, 2009 at 8:05 am — Reply

        I just want to know why you hated it so much, Stephen.

        • November 13, 2009 at 8:07 am — Reply

          Where do I say I hate it, again?

          • November 13, 2009 at 2:26 pm — Reply

            Stephen, why are you a hater?

      • Aerspyder
        November 13, 2009 at 2:22 pm — Reply

        Alright, on a second reading I see that I mistook passion for hatred. I’m sorry.

        • Aerspyder
          November 13, 2009 at 2:26 pm — Reply

          And I keep forgetting to say “first time, long time . . .”

  3. November 13, 2009 at 9:12 am — Reply

    Regarding the timeline, I think they were referring to WWI as “The War.”

    • November 13, 2009 at 9:27 am — Reply

      In the original Doc Savage timeline, Doc and his crew did fight in World War I. However, in this issue, it can’t be The Great War due to the clothing people are wearing, which are clearly 50s and 60s influenced, the cars people are driving (modern), color television (60s), and the myriad of other historical concerns pointed out in the timeline at the beginning of the review. I have no idea what the creative team was thinking in terms of time, but it seems – from my perspective – that they took a look at the Bantam Books reprinting dates, and used that as the new Year One.

      • November 13, 2009 at 9:37 am — Reply

        Update: In regards to the information presented in Escape from Loki – Clark Savage was 16 when he entered World War I in 1918. As pointed out in the sketchbook section of the book, Doc is in his mid-thirties when the story takes place, using the number 35 as the mid-point, that would put 1937 as the year this story could take place, still two full years before Batman’s debut in 1939. Of course one could argue that 37 could still be considered mid-thirties, but that still doesn’t explain color television, clothing, and so on, and REALLy doesn’t explain the timeline regarding DAT tape, cars, blah, blah, blah.

        Again, don’t get me wrong, the story in this issue works. It isn’t great but it works. The art is wonderful and out of this world, but the timeline throws everything off. And when you are pulled out of the story, something is wrong. If “someone” really wants a breakdown of the rating 5 Stars for Art, 2 Stars for writing = 3.5 Stars in the final review.

        • November 13, 2009 at 10:16 am — Reply

          I was actually quite bothered by the color TV, but I attributed that to a colorist not thinking things through. That and the very modern “network bug” they used to identify Vicki Vale on the TV.

          I also spotted a few typos, which seems rare for a DC comic. During the Jim Gordon segue … should have read “WE have to deal with the political bull …” I remember spotting another, but now I can’t find it. :(

          • November 13, 2009 at 11:20 am — Reply

            That’s one of the stumbling block scenes that caused me to have to read everything multiple times to understand. If Gordon is drunk, then it makes more sense if there are errors.

  4. November 13, 2009 at 2:04 pm — Reply

    Strangely, my situation with this book was less complicated, and didn’t have the hangups about the time-frame.

    I propose that we look at this book (and, probably ALL of First Wave) as “Earth 1942,” a very noir-pulp world where sometimes things will seem anachronistic, like the Spirit series DC has been putting out. In an early issue, Denny Colt has an adventure where he does all his usual 1942 schtick, but the plot hinges on a cellular phone.

    I liked the Doc here (although I’m troubled by some of the situations and character hooks Azarello puts in the Who’s Who section in back, specifically as regards The Avenger, Monk and Renny) and I am interested in seeing how this imprint is going to work.

    Would it be more palatable if we were treat is as “What If” in the vein of the Marvel Noir books?

    • lifeisaglitch
      November 13, 2009 at 8:11 pm — Reply

      I agree with Matthew, the timeframe did not concern me even though i have great respect for the characters and their history..And i do hate when they screw up regarding that kind (Colour TV) of stuff in period pieces. BUT when it is intentional, it is allowed to dub an era: “Pulpy-noir-Sc!ence Time”..For that is awesome much like Astronauts riding on dinosaurs.

      BTW that is TOTALLY the greatest name for a band EVER!

      • lifeisaglitch
        November 13, 2009 at 8:14 pm — Reply

        If “on” is disregarded—cut me some slack..2nd language…

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