REVIEW: First Wave #3

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No, DC Entertainment hasn’t cancelled the First Wave series (yet) as the long awaited third issue arrives with a gun toting Dark Knight featured as the character of the month.

FIRST WAVE #3
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Pencils: Rags Morales
Inkers: Rick Bryant and Bob Almond
Color: Nei Ruffino
Letters: Clem Robins
Cover: J.G. Jones (A) Lee Bermejo (B)
Editor: Joe Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics

Previously in First Wave: Clark Savage, Sr. is alive and kicking, which causes all sorts of trouble for his son, Doc. The Blackhawks, The Spirit, Savage, Jr. and the mysterious Golden Tree are all looking for a something important that may be a boon to humanity, or its downfall.

BATMAN – WITH GUNS!

For Doc, The Blackhawks, and The Spirit, the story takes a turn that I wasn’t expecting when the law gets involved. Denny Colt for years has been a willing and welcome component of the Central City police force, so when Dolan shows up and wants to take The Spirit and Savage into custody, it sets up a weird vibe that might have repercussions in other books. Dolan lets the Blackhawks go, which is an odd turn of events, and it seems to take the team by surprise as well. There’s a very sinister feeling in the reasoning the Blackhawks are allowed to leave, and I get the feeling The Golden Tree are somehow behind it.

Doc is willing to be taken into custody, but he helps The Spirit escape in a very Doc Savage/Buckaroo Banzai manner, which will again could cause more problems for Denny down the road. That is if the writers of the First Wave books keep everything in continuity and follow what each are doing.

Batman’s frequency in the First Wave series has been downplayed quite a bit since the Batman/Doc Savage Special, and as odd as it may sound coming from me, I think it was a good thing. We all know about Batman, we know what makes him tick, we know about all his adventures, and we know what we he capable of. But in this new universe DC has created, Batman serves as that bridge between what we know now and the awesome collection of golden age pulp heroes we’ve forgotten. In the first two issues, Azzarello let readers in on the world of Doc Savage and The Spirt, and kept the Dark Knight in the shadows for most of the time – and it works in this story as all the characters we’ve seen so far have had world spanning adventures, and are the big guns of the day. First Wave features Batman in his first year; still wet behind the ears, who has little interest in anything other than Gotham City.

Batman moves from bit player to the forefront as Clark Savage, Sr. winds up in Gotham, and after his previous encounter with Doc Savage, Bruce thinks its a perfect time for him to pay the elder a visit. There’s also an important exchange between Bruce and Anton Colossi, where it is revealed he is the one torturing Johnny Littlejohn over a missing disc of information. I really like how Azzarello weaves all of these big name characters with one another, and while it is a book that isn’t getting a lot of hype out of DC, it is an epic story that I believe rivals anything going on in Generation Lost or Brightest Day. With every page, the writer brings in a new twist to the big mystery.

And the mystery of Clark Savage, Sr.’s return is revealed as a failed attempt on his life finds the Batman making a rookie mistake, and a gang member getting shot point blank in the face as The Avenger makes an appearance. As a character that has only been in the co-feature stories in the Doc Savage series, it’s refreshing to see him come out of nowhere to save the day, and to provide yet another big important clue, that forces Batman to enter the realm of world adventurer.

ART THAT BRINGS AN EPIC CINEMATIC FEEL

There’s something special in the way Rags Morales draws a young and lithe Bruce Wayne. His eye’s are still full of wonder and his body hasn’t seen the ravages of years of crime fighting and injuries. All of his characters are easily recognizable, and that is a welcome sight as it appears he doesn’t rely on Stock Body Pose #327.

I still have concerns and misgivings over the mixture of old and new in the technology of the series, and the mixing of architecture really causes further confusion as in one panel, Batman is scaling the side of a building we expect to be in Gotham, and then a few pages later, he’s standing on the roof with The Avenger, with the Hollywood sign clearly in the background. While the mixing of technology brings a fun fresh take on the universe, these kinds of moments still pull me out of the reading experience.

I can’t let this review go without mentioning the colors in this book. Nei Ruffino deserves a hearty round of applause in this issue, as she keeps the colors muted for most of the book. She only allows the color to get blown out and over saturated when it is needed or deserved, like when there is gun fire or a big light source is used in the page. The toned down colors, for me, enhances the epic feel of the book, and gives it a cinematic feel.

BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT

For a series that isn’t getting much play, it is nice to see the series appear in the Top 100 each month it comes out. An excellent story that combines all the mystery and adventure found in the pulp adventures of yesteryear, with the story telling and art that can only be delivered today. While I still have problems with the release schedule on this series, it is still one of the best event books DC is putting out and it should be on your buy list. The story really gets interesting in this chapter, earning First Wave #3 4.5 out of 5 Stars.

Rating: ★★★★½