Review: Creator Owned Heroes

I have never really loved, or even hated,  anything produced by Gray or Palmiotti and 30 Days of Night, my sole venture into Niles’ work, was underwhelming to say the least. So I bought this book solely on the strength of its concept. An anthology equally featuring serialized creator-owned stories and comics-magazine-style content, e.g. interviews, pictures, etc. Although, as many have commented, the format isn’t exactly novel,  the creator-owned  hook is what really has caught people’s attentions.  As with virtually every form of entertainment, it’s incredibly pervasive for comic book fans to elide a certain key term: industry. The comic-book industry, by all accounts, doesn’t seem to possess the most progressive model regarding labour issues. Like most fans, it’s something I know in the back-of-my-head yet my desire to see Batman hook Superman in the face with a kyprtonite mecha suit ensures that those thoughts stay exactly there – in the background. However, I do want to see comics – as a medium, as a format, as an industry – grow, expand, mutate. In the last three decades it certainly has. The advent of the graphic novel, literary acceptance, the looming spectre of the digital revolution. None-the-less, for those unlucky enough not to be one of the handful of superstar writers, they don’t seem (and this from an outsider’s perspective) to reward their creators commensurate with the blood, sweat and tears that go into production. Enter creator-owned heroes. With this book, these guys are really trying to carve out a new space free from corporate exploitation but also editorial interference. The numbers will tell if this is a successful venture financially, but creatively, it mostly delivers.

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Review: Batman/Doc Savage Special #1


Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 operates, in many ways, as a preview, an attention-getter, for the upcoming launch of DC’s “First Wave” project in March of 2010.  Written by Brian Azzarello, with Phil Noto on art, this issue introduces lasting pulp icon Doc Savage to the DC Universe as he comes to Gotham to investigate and possibly apprehend the brand spankin’ new vigilante known only as the Batman.  The series as a whole will use a number of famous pulp heroes, from Doc Savage to the Spirit and beyond, to recast DC’s early days as a dark adventure for a world heading into the unknown.

Azzarello’s writing on this issue is largely solid.  There are a few slip-ups that some may find irritating – such as a confrontation between Batman and Doc Savage in which Bruce’s narration continually insists that he has just one more chance, which is followed by his last chance, which is followed by another assurance that he still has a chance left – but for the most part, Azzarello does a stellar job introducing us both to the less assured, riskier young Batman and the celebrated renaissance man, Doc Savage.  The characters are distinct and interesting, though the issue’s plotting is nearly nonexistent and it does little to suggest solid supporting casts.

Noto’s art is similarly plagued with minor problems, as the issue is filled with relatively stiff fight scenes and a strange propensity to always make it look as though Batman is smiling, regardless of whether or not it’s appropriate to the scene at hand.  Despite those flaws, however, he also does a fine job, giving the book a notable, memorable style that stays largely consistent throughout.  The book has plenty of memorable images, thanks largely to Noto’s design and coloring.

Batman/Doc Savage Special #1 definitely reads like a prologue, and a pricey one at that.  But it also serves as a rock-solid introduction into exactly what Azzarello has planned come next year as he lays down plot threads that can take our heroes all over the place.  A brash young Batman is a particularly nice addition to the team as the character’s return to his roots (and his guns) will have some modern fans shaking their heads, but will leave plenty delighted to see the little-discussed rookie-years of the character.  Azzarello does a great job distinguishing rich-boy crime-fighting genius know-it-all with a military-trained butler Doc Savage from the remarkably similar Bruce Wayne, and making both characters interesting in their own right.  It definitely left me looking forward to the next step of the project, and regretting the long wait.

Grade: B+

– Cal Cleary