This is the last installment of this feature for the immediate future, as I won’t have any more material until DC reprints its First Wave Doc Savage series or I buy the Doc Savage Omnibus from Dynamite. I thought there’d been a bunch more series in the 1990s, but there’s nothing after Curse of the Fire God until 2010’s FirstWave (I think I was vaguely remembering Dark Horse’s multiple Shadow adaptations).
I only have two of the four parts of 1995’s Fire God, written by Steve Vance and penciled by Pat Broderick (cover by Gary Gianni, all rights to current holder), though I suspect it was more cash problems than personal distaste that led to me dropping it. That said, it’s not particularly memorable: not bad, but an unremarkable tale. Delezon (one of the nations in Dust of Death) is now free of its dictator but the new democratic government is under siege by a cult led by Kukulcan, wielding mysterious fiery powers. Vance does a good job capturing the pulp spirit, but when I’m already reading two of the originals each month, it’s hard to get excited about that compared to Millenium’s more unconventional take and DC’s version. For that matter Marvel’s black-and-white book, while it didn’t push the envelope, was more entertaining.
Pat Broderick’s art is so-so. As usual, nobody but Monk and Renny really looks right and Doc sometimes looks very odd, more like he’s half rock-troll than the bronze Greek god he’s supposed to be.
Of course First Wave shows departing from pulp formulas doesn’t guarantee success either. By Brian Azzarello and Rags Morales, this series introduced an alt.world (some time after WW II, apparently) where Doc, the Avenger (another 1930s pulp crimefighter), the Spirit, a gun-wielding Batman and the Blackhawks all co-exist. In the kickoff miniseries (followed by Doc getting his own book, plus some other series set in the same universe) the villain, Colossi, is launching a massive seasteading project, with the bonus that his floating city will be able to wipe out targets on land with man-made tidal waves.
Other than the mash-up, Doc is pretty much his usual self here (though the notes to the First Wave TPB say his bronze skin comes from being mixed race). Where most of the characters are rookies (Batman) or opportunists (the Blackhawks are mercenaries), Doc’s “the hero.” However, while I like the setting, I can’t say the story really grabs me. And Doc’s arch-enemy John Sunlight is nothing but a generic evil Russian, with none of his glorious sinisterness (You’ll see soon enough — I’ll be getting to his debut story some time in the next six months). Much like Fire God, it’s competent but uninspired.
And like I said above, now it’s back to regular Doc Savage novels, sans comics for the foreseeable future.
(Cover below by J.G. Jones, all rights with current holder)