The fourth issue of “First Wave” switches things around a little. So far, Rags Morales’ art on the book has been outpacing Brian Azzarello’s writing, but, here, Azzarello’s set-up in the previous three issues is starting to come together and cohere into a compelling narrative, while Morales’ art looks unpolished and less detailed than previous issues. That’s not surprising with the book slipping from its schedule, but the art is still dynamic and attractive enough to not detract too much. The energy that was on display last issue is missing somewhat, but it’s still a strong issue with fantastic character work by Azzarello.
The story shifts to Hidalgo, as the common threat that has united Doc Savage, the Spirit, and the Blackhawks is revealed in greater detail, while Batman gets involved, too. For the past three issues, Azzarello has slowly been drawing these heroes together and doing so in an organic fashion that makes it seem natural. There’s not a hint of throwing them all together because they’re the good guys, so they need to all be on the same side. All of the characters have come to this place their own way; for example, the Blackhawks, up until recently, were at odds with Doc Savage and the Spirit, but have been swayed to the side of the angels. More than that, the characters haven’t all assembled together with Batman working on a parallel path outside the group, while Rima finally crosses paths with the group in this issue.
The revelation of Anton Colossi’s project, the Golden Tree (or, at least what he tries to sell Bruce Wayne on) is interesting. Doc Savage’s reasoning that the Golden Tree and its claim to be wealthy individuals dedicated to world peace is false is very smart: he’s a wealthy individual who is very open about his dedication to world peace and they haven’t contacted him. If they were on the level, why not include him? His narration on the subject and Batman’s thoughts on his fight against evil are the highlights of the issue. Azzarello communicates so much about the characters and where they’re coming from. The Batman narration, in particular, ends the issue strongly, placed overtop a montage of images to set up the next issue.
While the art is less polished in this issue than the previous ones, Rags Morales still provides some stunning images and solid storytelling. His character work matches Azzarello’s, like the looks Captain Cheng gives Colossi at the beginning of the issue, looking completely unimpressed and suspicious of his employer. Morales absolutely nails the pompous mannerisms of Colossi, especially the way he walks away from Cheng on page three. Later in the issue, the contrast he has between Doc Savage before and after a beating is remarkable; he completely sells the idea of Savage beaten so severely that it’s surprising he’s still alive. In that case, the lighter, less polished line work adds to the picture, giving the injured Savage a nastier, less attractive look.
Despite delays, “First Wave” #4 continues to build on the previous issues as it combines the seemingly disparate narratives into a cohesive one. The construction of this series has been interesting to watch play out and, with two issues left to go, how Azzarello and Morales tie everything together by the end will be exciting to see.