Altered States once again proves itself as having the least realized potential of possibly any book on the shelf. Other books may aspire, other books may fail, but none present an interesting idea and then proceed to squander it in the span of 22 pages as consistently and efficiently as these do. This has, by far, come the closest to realizing its potential but much like Vampirella it just doesn’t have the time to create something great out of something middling. So we’re left with middling is what I’m saying. This really gets the score it gets because it has a pretty decent premise with a pretty decent ending. If you don’t really need a rushed story about how man is beast and beast is man then you can probably just outright skip this one but I give it credit for trying. Unlike Vampirella which tried to cram plot, characters and setting into 2 dozen pages and ended up traveling at light speed because of it or Red Sonja which had a solid premise but poor execution; this focuses on telling a story. However that story is A) not terribly interesting given the time they have to develop it and 2) comes at the expense of characterization and setting. I really know nothing about this incarnation of Doc Savage and I learn nothing about him or his group of people. I guess I’m supposed to just transfer whatever characterization I already know over to these new characters and just assume everything is the same. Even though this is an Elseworlds style one-shot that could totally be different. I also know nothing about where they are. I know it’s called the Crime College. I know they have mechanical trees that shoot missiles and I know they own a gorilla. It is important to keep in mind though, when you’re establishing a setting, primate ownership is not a setting. It’s barely a state of being. Unless you’re doing something cool with that monkey it’s not even a bullet point on your college handout.
Doc Savage turns into some kind of primitive man and goes HAM sandwich. That’s the basic plot. A few pages later, as regular ol’ Doc he beats a villain and looks into the mirror to see that primitive version staring back. Not terribly original but I appreciate what they were going for in the 22 pages they had to work with.
I understand that maybe nobody at Dynamite will read this, if you do I want you to know that I really like a lot of what you’re doing even if I’m sometimes critical of it. But if you ignore every other piece of criticism I have given please, please, please listen to this: GIVE THESE PEOPLE MORE TIME. I know editorial and publishing takes a while so it may be too late for whatever you have in the pipe but on the next batch consider turning those into mini-series or revisiting some of these plots and expanding on them. The story is competent enough that if given more time I believe that David Avallone could have created something pretty cool.
Him looking in the mirror and seeing his primitive reflection would have been killer as the last panel of issue 2 out of 4 or at least the third act of a giant-sized issue if you don’t want to commit to a quarter of a year. Most of this book works well as the first issue in a mini-series. Up until the primitive reveal, that would have to go, that is a good reveal that you should build up to. But everything else would be a compelling first issue, instead we get a rushed and cramped one-shot.
I read stuff like this and I’m compelled to share what I would do differently because it’s so close to greatness. It feels like it just needs a little more red ink and it will be the best it could be. If I could just correct it… but maybe that’s dismissive of the talent on display here. But I want to so bad! I like the writing and the art, the premise is interesting it just doesn’t have time to explore what it really means to be a criminal or to have a dark, wild side. It addresses it briefly with a line and then it’s gone. Given a few issues to really delve into it, Jekyll and Hyde style, this could have been something great. What’s here is something that is pretty okay but not worth going out of your way to read.