After an initial story arc that was divorced not just in plot, but tone from the “First Wave” mini-series, the series and line’s architect, Brian Azzarello, comes aboard “Doc Savage” to co-plot the second arc with Ivan Brandon. The change is obvious from the very first panel: two young, conjoined twins that look like they’ve been mutilated and disfigured are presented in a sickening pale green, the speech balloons suggesting a recording. One says, “We are the two who are one. We bring word from the ash of war. But we do not bring war.” The other adds, “We bring a message of peace.” The narrative caption concludes the panel by reading “They’re not the strangest things in the room.” It’s an interesting and intriguing way of starting the issue and only gets better from there.
The entire opening scene of “Doc Savage” #6 is engaging and written like a piece of pulp fiction. The narrative captions add descriptions in fragments, characters speak obtusely, all leading up to the reveal of the good doctor himself, a man not presented as a hero. This Savage is dangerous and dark, not the bright and shiny hero that many think, more in line with his portrayal in “First Wave.” He makes the armed guards around him nervous, purposefully so. It’s one of the most compelling introductions to a character that I’ve come across in a long time.
It’s not just Brandon’s scripting that produces that effect, Nic Klein’s art is full of shadows and twisted looks. Savage doesn’t look heroic. His eyes are glaring with a yellowish glow, his smile creepy, and his figure imposing. A shot of him preparing to act, accompanied by the caption “They don’t much like it when he smiles” shows a man who comes off as unhinged and a little crazy. He’s been ordered to assist the military in cleaning up a leftover mess from a war ended years ago and those orders are accompanied by threats, putting Savage into a position where he has to act. He’s more a loose cannon than the straight-laced hero and it works quite well.
Taken alone, the opening scene would be pushing it, but the follow through with Savage and his associates heading for the Middle East to stop the conjoined terrorist twins from using weapons of mass destruction demonstrates that he does care and does want to be a hero, just not on someone else’s terms. Brandon, Azzarello, and Klein present a clear, strong image of their interpretation of the character, but it’s never overbearing or spelled out in explicit terms. They simply show us Savage in action and trust that we’ll figure it all out.
Add to that the first part of a new “Justice, Inc.” story that focuses on, I assume, Smitty (he’s never identified explicitly) with Jason Starr presenting an updated version of his background and a case that he feels passionate about. There’s a wonderful tension in Smitty as he wants to hurt and kill, and has found an opportunity to do so for the right reasons, but may be in a position where he’ll go too far. More than that, he wants to go too far. Scott Hampton’s pencils are expressive and help bring Starr’s narration to life. This back-up strip is the thing was the best reason to buy “Doc Savage” before, now it’s a very pleasant bonus with Brandon, Azzarello, and Klein on board.
The news that Brian Azzarello and Ivan Brandon would be writing the second arc of “Doc Savage” was enough to warrant giving the book another chance, but with artist Nic Klein, they’ve produced a comic that grabs you from panel one and doesn’t let go. It’s quick, disarming, creepy, and utterly compelling. Definitely a comic worth checking out and adding to your pull list for the foreseeable future.