I’ve been a fan of the Man of Bronze for over thirty years, having discovered one of the books in a local used bookstore. Those pulp stories were like gold (or maybe just bronze) to me. I still feel like the character is the literary equivalent of comics’ Batman. A normal man with perfectly honed skills, strength, and intellect. So it should come as no shock that I asked to review Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze #5 when I saw it in the review list. And being a long-time fan, I dove straight in. Here’s my take on this issue.
The story starts off in space with Doc Savage helping set up a satellite system. This particular comic takes place in 1988, following the pattern this series has had of skipping a decade or so between issues. Finding that someone has hijacked a more dangerous satellite, Doc swoops in to try to stop the villains. With the help of Roughneck, one of his newer sidekicks, he finds himself in the midst of a group of crazed zealots who are following the teachings set forth in a science fiction novel. With time running out, Doc takes a gamble and sets in motion a plan that he hopes will save the Earth from destruction. There’s a lot more to it than that, but you’ll have to read it if you want to know how it ends.
The one thing you could always count on in the books was a glorious adventure with earth-shattering consequences if the bad guys won. And it seems that Chris Roberson is trying to emulate that same sense of urgency and panic in the comics. Unfortunately, it feels very loose in the reading. I get that there is an over-the-top plot to destroy something. It just seems rushed. I liked the plot, but really think it needs to be fleshed out more. Instead of every issue being a self-contained story, how about a few short-run story arcs? The tale could have been so much better if given time to develop it. The dialogue is fine, as is the input of information via the story panels…just give it time to grow.
That having been said, the illustrations from Bilquis Evely are amazing. Featuring some exceptionally detailed characters in virtually every panel, no stone is left unturned when it comes to creating the perfect visual accompaniment to the storyline. Where many artists will use a bare or minimalistic backdrop to emphasize the primary focus of the panel, she places just as much detail in the background to make every picture a true work of art. I was quite pleased with the artwork found within these pages.
While I know I shouldn’t compare the comic book to the prior works like the magazines or the pulp novels…I cannot help it. What made Doc Savage so iconic seems muted or worse, gone! I don’t hate the new companions in these last few issues, but the original five aides were so much better, even though they weren’t always needed. My only hope is that this series is leading to something bigger. Maybe these time jumps between the issues mean something or are precursors to a larger plot. I don’t know, to be honest. I am grasping at proverbial straws here. The one thing that makes me recommend this most is the ease of entry here. With every story being contained in a single comic, it’s great for newcomers who might not be able to find earlier issues. But other than that, you better be a diehard fan or you might feel kind of betrayed. I’ll keep reading them because that’s what I do, being a completest. And while the art is superb, I’m not sure that it’s enough to merit a purchase.