By: Brian Azzarello (writer), Rags Morales (penciller), Rick Bryant & Phil Winslade (inker), Nei Ruffino (colorist)
The Story: If you happen to be fighting giant robots and dinosaurs on a floating city in the middle of a tsunami, you’ll get pretty down too.
The Review: Figuring out the ending to any kind of story is probably the toughest part of writing. There’s an urge to neatly wrap it all up with a bow on top, but that’s not always possible. Some endings take time to come together, making it rough for comic book miniseries. Since there’s a definite cap to their space and deadline for their completion, they don’t have the luxury of letting the story meander along until it kind of finishes itself.
This last issue of First Wave definitely seems like a spare issue or two would have helped out a lot in pulling all its plot threads together in a tighter way. Azzarello does his best with what he’s got, but the pace still feels rushed, almost furiously cobbled together. Even to the very end, he introduces twists which never pan out—the serum that turns blood into gold, for example—which indicates he has a much grander vision in mind that what he ends up with.
Certainly a lot of the more emotional, pontificating scenes need more grounding to sell. Anton Colossi’s childish breakdown would be more convincing had we seen more signs of his instability beyond a weird, but not totally off-putting devotion to his mother. But his mad ravings are kind of an eye-roller: “I am sooooo [sic] done hearing can’t, when I can do any damned thing I want!” You’re really left with the sense of him as an insignificant lunatic.
Azzarello’s handling of head-honcho villain Mr. Sunlight also feels unsatisfyingly incomplete. His nonplussed attitude toward the literal sinking of his plans seems appropriate, given his big-picture goals and unflappable personality. But his lofty talk about morals and history lean on vague, and considering how little you saw of him in the whole series, you wind up with no grasp of who this guy is—too bad, as likely, you won’t see him again for a long time, if ever.
The final pages leave the story somewhat open-ended: Mr. Sunlight departs scot-free and even Anton’s death is up in the air. Doc Savage attempts to placate Bat-Man and the Spirit’s sense of failure with a corny adage of his father (a Superman parallel if there ever was one—heck, Savage calls attention to the fact his name is also “Clark”), but sincere as they may be, it feels a bit too touchy-feely. For a pulp story, the main draw is action, definitely the best part of this issue, though Blackhawk Cheng Wu steals the show, taking down Anton’s goons single-handed.
It’s impossible for Morales to deliver anything less than strong art, giving distinct designs and features to all the characters and settings. There are a couple snafus: Anton fires his machine gun directly into Bat-Man’s face, yet somehow misses; and when the Blackhawks drop a dozen bombs onto the encroaching tidal wave, you don’t really see what that’s supposed to accomplish. It’s unclear which inker is responsible for which pages, but at times the lines are thin and clear, and at others, they’re distractingly muddy.
Conclusion: An uneven finish to an otherwise solid homage to the pre-Golden Age of comics and heroes. It doesn’t achieve the epic feel it goes for, but a strong story nonetheless.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: – It seems the method of choice these days for dispatching dinosaurs is to set off a bomb inside their gullets. Cool the first time around—getting banal by around now.
– I don’t care how sharp that sword is—you can’t just whizz off a human head that way.