Doc Savage: The Ring of Fire issues #1 & 2

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Doc Savage: The Ring of Fire issues #1 & 2

Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment

Writer: David Avallone

Artist: Dave Acosta

Colors: Morgan Hickman

Letters: Taylor Esposito

Review by PeteR

Dynamite is finally portraying Doc Savage correctly.

Briefly, for those who came in late, Doc Savage was a hero from the pulp magazine era, which was the precursor to comic books. The first Doc Savage adventure was published in March of 1933 by the Street & Smith Magazine Company. Street & Smith were also the publishers of the popular Shadow pulp magazine. Doctor Clark Savage Jr. had five aides who worked with him; Ham, Monk, Renny, Long Tom and Johnny. Each were the undisputed masters of the fields they specialized in. From 1933 to 1949 there were 181 Doc Savage pulps. He also appeared in comic books published by Street & Smith.

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In the 1960’s Bantam began reprinting Doc Savage books with painted covers, most famously by James Bama. Anthony Tollin, through his Sanctum Press line, has just recently completed reprinting all the pulp tales with new articles and features highlighting various historical aspects of the character and his creator, Lester Dent.

Almost every major comic company has published Doc Savage adventures. Gold Key, Marvel, D.C. Comics, Millennium and Dark Horse have all released Doc Savage comics. Some attempts were better than others. There was even a Doc Savage movie back in 1975. Dwayne Johnson is meant to be making a new movie about Doc Savage, written and directed by Shane Black.

Prior to this new comic book series, Doc Savage: The Ring of Fire, Dynamite has published two previous Doc Savage chronicles. The first was Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze and the second was The Spider’s Web. Both series were written by Chris Roberson. In these two prior runs, Roberson attempted to bring Doc Savage to our present time. In doing so, the writer had to then justify the actions of Doc Savage in the 1930’s.

The 1930’s were a lot less “enlightened” than these days are. Back then, the idea of someone running a covert hospital that performed specialized lobotomies on criminals without providing them due process through the courts was a dandy idea. Doc Savage did in fact own and operate such a facility. It was called the Crime College. Roberson also had to justify how Doc and his cousin Patricia stayed young into the modern era while his five assistants did not. Neither of these concepts, the Crime College or Doc and Pat’s youth, portrayed Doc Savage in a heroic light.

The other challenge that Dynamite’s first Doc Savage series had was the art. Artist Bilquis Evely’s portrayal of Doc and his five aides was innocuous. His rendering of the main characters made them all look pretty much the same. Sometimes it was difficult differentiating one of the characters from the other. The pulps and all subsequent media portrayals made it a point to emphasize the physical and personality differences of each of his aides.

Doc Savage: The Ring of Fire does not suffer from either of these previous problems. Writer David Avallone places this epic in 1938. The art by Dave Acosta makes sure that all of the primary characters are differentiated in appearance.

The plot is classic Doc Savage. There is a mysterious creature and event that scientifically cannot exist. The events threaten many people, if not the whole world. Doc and company go to investigate only to find an even greater mystery. Doc is portrayed as being slightly aloof. Monk and Ham are insulting one another and fighting. Johnny’s vernacular uses five syllable words when a simple “yes” or “no” would do. Renny is morose and restless and Long Tom is fascinated by how a new piece of technology works. Pat Savage, Doc’s very capable and beautiful cousin, is told to stay out of trouble and promptly does the exact opposite. All the right chords in the opening stanza have been played.

My only complaint is in the second issue. Doc shoots two villains on a submarine. In the pulps, Doc hated to use guns because he did not want to rely on them. He had also created a special machine gun that shot “mercy” bullets. I recognize this is somewhat hypocritical of me since, from a historical stand point, shooting two men is bad, but letting a submarine crew of henchmen drown I was okay with.

Why you should buy this book?  The art is strong and the story feels like what a Doc Savage adventure should be. If you are a fan of Doc Savage, this is Dynamite’s best series so far. If you are new to the character, here is a good place to jump on.

Doc Savage is one of the pillars the whole comic book industry is built on. Without him there would be no Superman. Doc Savage is part of our history and should not be forgotten.  I would love to see Dynamite adapt some of the original pulp stories or one of author Will Murray’s new Wild Adventures of Doc Savage novels that Altus Press has recently published to comic books. Dynamite has done a terrific job keeping the older heroes like the Shadow, Green Hornet, Lone Ranger and Doc Savage in the public eye, and I hope they continue to their efforts. As long as they print new comics, I will buy them.

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