Doc Savage – Curse of the Fire God #1
Steve Vance (Writer), Pat Broderick (Artist)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have read many adventure of pulp heroes of yore over the last 20 years but for all the fan-fare and following, I have never really read much of the Doc Savage adventures barring perhaps the odd short story – so much so that when I picked this up, I could remember next to nothing of the characters and all outside of Doc being the “Man of Bronze” who is super-gifted in some vague fashion. I was pleasantly surprised to find a passable entertaining adventure comic that hearkened back to a simpler time and simpler adventure tales on multiple levels.
Our basic story is not too complex – it concerns a fictional tropical country that is rich in oil and is recovering from a coup. There are vested interests all around and the sudden appearance of a new threat in the form of the countries’ ancient fire-God Kuchulkan and it is up to our heroes to unravel the mystery of what is going on before things spiral completely out of control in this country teetering on the edge!
The Doc is of course, the quintessential somewhat super-human heroic and iconic figure that the world adores and he is not just a mental marvel gifted in almost all fields, but he is also an epitome of physical prowess to dwarf most any man – the total package if you will, with the amusing twist that his skin is bronzed (for some reason I’m not made aware of at least in this story). But it’s all good fun and games with a suitably pulp/comic-archetype hero and we also get to spend time with this quintet of friends: Monk Mayfair, the somewhat rough and rowdy chemist; William Littlejohn, world renowned archeologist and geographer; Colonel Renny Renwick, former soldier and man of action; Ham Brooks, silver-tongued lawyer and schmoozer with a hard-fighting past; Long Tom Roberts, electrical wizard.
This group is led ably by Doc and one of the biggest pluses in this script are that in small ways, the writer does an impressive job of injecting a lot of humanity into their relationships, there’s a plethora of seemingly unimportant dialogues that serve only to show the history and bonding between all of these adventurers that allows them to be an effective unit. As someone who’s read more than my share of comics with heroic teams, I applaud this one for doing so to great effect over use a few issues (it was a 5-issues mini-series) and the gently adversarial dynamic between Monk and Ham is the best in my opinion and the fact that Monk has a pet pig named Habeus Corpus just cracked me up!
The adventure is hard to delve into without spoiling it too much as it’s a fairly simple tale of adventure but to put it in brief, there is adventure, action and intrigue – hijinks in airplanes, rumbles in the jungle, fiery snakes, henchmen, gunfire and all the hallmarks of the genre. In addition to the main cast, we get many fun supporting ones including Pat Savage who is Docs cousin and as she puts it, she has the same blood and spirit of adventure as Doc and she wants to be part of all the action and we have Whitney Wellman, an irritating but amusing old-school reporter type that plays his part in the goings-on in the story.
Unexpectedly, I found the artwork also to be very old-school in the style and quality – it feels a lot closer to the comics from the 60’s-80’s which brings a nice retro feel even to the visuals and its nicely crisp with that slightly dramatic story-boarding of silver-age comics.
As said before, it’s a fairly familiar and comfort-zone kind of story by its nature, at least to anyone who has read pulp action adventures. Of the many comic adaptations over the last 20 years or so, this has in my humble opinion, been one of the most fun that I can remember.
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