The 1930s were a perfect time for American authors with a chip on their shoulders to write about incredible heroes defending their country. It comes as no surprise that Doc Savage, one of pulp fiction’s most legendary characters, has survived from then until now. While the Bronze Man himself hasn’t lost any of his muscle or intellect, perhaps its time for him to get a modernization, or at the very least stick to beating up Nazis and skip the rest.
Dynamite has been publishing reboots of pulp characters for a while now, some of them work, some of them don’t. Doc Savage himself has had the reboot treatment as well. This latest iteration: Doc Savage: The Spider’s Web is a brand new story that according to author Chris Roberson is supposed to be one of many stand alone stories that continues where the previous Doc Savage titles left off. For someone who hasn’t read the back issues, this isn’t exactly the best starting point, without much backstory this comic will most likely leave readers wondering exactly what is going on, despite that it is labeled as a first issue. That confusion aside, if you know anything about Doc Savage it probably won’t be too difficult to pick up.
The story is fairly straight forward. The comic opens up with an earthquake, decimating a large part of a city in South America. Doc is on the scene already, helping victims get to safety, while his team back at their headquarters is trying to figure out what caused it. Doc finds a man hung by his own parachute in a tree not far from where the earthquake took place, the mystery deepens when Doc finds some type of black box device on him. He takes the box back to his headquarters where they analyze it, cue flashback to an early adventure where a similar technology was used not to trigger earthquakes but to melt human bodies...
Okay, so it’s all very pulpy, which is a good thing in theory, though the execution of the story suffers from lack of focus. Roberson tries to cram a lot into this first issue, attempting to give some backstory for new readers, trying to connect the old adventures of Doc and company with the new, all while building up to something that is supposed to keep us hooked for the coming issues. Well, it’s a lot to take in, and it doesn’t really work. The story itself is cliche and trope-ridden, which can work in a pulp revival comic such as this, but in this case the story is a little too simple. Doc Savage is a character who belongs in his era, and bringing him into the present doesn’t really work. When I read a pulp comic like this I want non-stop action, over the top thrills, and some 30s and 40s era imagery.
I always end up comparing comics like these to The Rocketeer, a perfect example of an original story that was also a perfect homage to the stories it was based on. Seeing Doc in 2015 doing the same things he was doing in 1933 seems a little weird. Roberson splits the story in two, giving us classic Doc Savage chasing down a Nazi sympathizer attempting to blow up the Hoover Dam, which is a lot of fun, and what this comic should be. It falls apart when we return to the present and that flashback is tied in to the present where it feels dated and cheesy. I’m not saying that Doc can’t exist in 2015, but if he’s going to be in our time at least make it feel like our time, the modern iteration of Doc and his team just feels dated and boring. If we’re expected to be on the edge of our seat watching an 80 year old character do the same shit he’s always done at least pull it off with style. This latest version of Doc Savage has a long way to go to fulfill its promise of pulp-revival glory.
Doc Savage: The Spider’s Web #1 Writer: Chris Roberson Artist: Cezar Razek Colorist: Dijo Lima Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/2/15 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital