This is the penultimate issue of Brian Azzarello’s First Wave series featuring Batman, The Spirit and Doc Savage. I suppose if this was a TV episode we could expect this to be the strongest of the series with a letdown for the final chapter. But since we haven’t seen the finale yet we’ll have to reserve comment.
Before I get too deep into this review I’d like to comment on the cover by J.G. Jones. Front and center is Batman flanked by the Spirit and Doc Savage. I love the “noirish” feel and the perspective of looking down the barrel of Batman’s gun. It really draws you into the scene and the “photo-realistic” style especially for the Batman figure pulls you right into the action. Our heroes are outlined by a red hand that seems to have pulled the cover away to reveal them in conflict. It’s as if the evil that is driving the machinations of the crimes being investigated doesn’t allow our heroes to hide despite their best efforts.
Now my problem with this series is that Batman comes and goes and sometimes disappears altogether. We, however, get a healthy dose of Doc Savage and in this issue he seems to be channeling Tarzan for a good portion of the book. The reason for this is probably because these books are inspired by the golden age of comics where the good Doc was a major figure and Batman was but a neophyte. (Which also explains the use of guns by Batman for those who were wondering.)
In the last issue, a trussed up Savage is rescued by Batman as he is about to become a human pincushion for the local native population. As we rejoin the action in this book, Bats and Doc are fleeing for their lives as Batman fires a few rounds to cover their escape. As they run, Savage spells out a plan for Batman in the form of a diversion, so the Doc can gain access to the Death Star, oops, I mean secret evil city and undo the plans of Anton Colossi and the cabal known as the Golden Tree.
Batman dutifully carries out his part of the plan. What’s interesting is as Batman flies over the city (bat-wing glider cape) and tosses a few thermite grenades, he muses about his role in the entire affair. He reprimands himself for getting caught up in all the action and being seduced by the violence. This Batman doesn’t see himself as a hero. Heroes are people that perform on the grand stage of the world and it is up to them to save it when the world needs those most. This Batman is a denizen of the concrete canyons of Gotham City. That’s his turf and he feels no compunction to move beyond it. Now juxtapose this philosophy with the current Batman who not only becomes a member of the JLA but is now instituting a “Batman Inc.” so his vision of crime fighting can be carried out on a global scale. These opposing viewpoints are what keep this Batman fresh and current canon one so dynamic.
As the story continues, the scantily clad Savage slips into the city via an underwater vent. I guess Darth Vader didn’t plan for that little weakness. Oh, I mean, Anton Colossi. Sorry. Throughout all of this Batman continues his inner monologue. He realizes his error in putting Bruce Wayne and Batman together outside of Gotham City. Sizing up his situation Batman emerges from the flames of his firebombing, dispatching a few thugs, naturally, and yells out, “I’m looking for that son of a bitch Bruce Wayne”. Nice. Batman’s there because he’s hunting Wayne. Again, a fresh take by Azarello on the Batman dynamic and his dual life.
The story spins on as the Spirit is useful for once, cleverly obtaining a much needed info disc but still managing to get himself captured along with Captain Cheng of the Blackhawks and Rima of the Jungle. Speaking of the jungle our Tarzan clad Doc Savage pounces on some unseeing thugs as they stand guard below. (Man, thugs standing guard never see anything!) An alarm is sounded none the less which allows Bruce Wayne to join the action as an innocent bystander. Wayne resolves to have nothing to do with Colossi’s nefarious plot which now defines him as prisoner instead of financier. Bruce is confined to his room where all his Bat-gear is stored (nicely done playboy) and as Doc Savage hurtles down a hallway hoping to discover the true fate of his father. He discovers a coffin as he is being lectured by “Mr. Sunlight” on the nobility of Kings and the reality of empire. Just then a giant robot grabs him by the throat choking him just as Darth Vader would “mind pinch” someone by the neck for finding “their lack of faith disturbing”.
Well, at least all the major players are in one place now and the final chapter awaits. Let’s hope Han Solo arrives in time to allow Luke to “blow this thing and go home!”
First Wave #5:
Reviewed by Dark Knight Dave