After Marvel’s color and black-and-white Doc Savage comics, the rights passed to DC Comics for several years (which is presumably why it’s DC that has reprinted all of Marvel’s stories in trade paperback). First came a four-issue miniseries by Denny O’Neil and Andy and Adam Kubert, then an open-ended series (which I’ll get to in a future post).
As Julian Perez says, this house ad for the mini (art by the Kuberts, rights with current holder) has absolutely nothing to do with the story we got. It looks like we’ll see Doc as some sort of hardboiled PI, when in reality he’s the same he’s always been. However O’Neil and the Kuberts do work a fresh spin on him, taking him out of the pulp era and into the present.
The mini opens with WW II coming to an end, but Doc tells his friends the Nazi super-scientist Wessel is still out there and a threat to humanity. Doc, however, is married now with a baby on the way, so Doc tells his crew he’s going to quit adventuring for research and family life after they bring down Wessel. As we all know, an action hero who’s just got Two Weeks to Retire (or any variation) is signing his death warrant. Sure enough, in a confrontation with Wessel (in the same Mayan valley where Doc began his adventures), the madman apparently disintegrates Doc (we learn later he’s been transported to an alien world).
The next couple of issues follow Doc’s crew (except Long Tom, who quits) up to the present. Aging, missing their leader, watching Doc’s son and then grandson. As Monk complains, the Savage blood seems to “run thin”—the son, unable to match Doc’s legend, snaps, gets into a gunfight and dies. The grandson inherits Doc’s physical ability and skills, but embraces pacifism. In his eyes, Doc’s willingness to use violence was part of the problem, not a solution (though he concedes eventually that he shares the same itch for action).
The guys also train some newbies to carry on Doc’s work, but the only two who pass the tests are Shoshona, an Israeli esper, and Bo Faulkner, a tough Southerner. When Wessel breaks jail and returns to the valley, the oldsters and the two new kids follow along and get in over their heads. Fortunately the aliens return Doc, who survives the transit without going mad, and his grandson Clark shows up, unable to let the guys get killed. When Wessel relocates to the World Trade Center for a final act of terrorism (yes, I know, weird to read that now), Doc and Clark team up to stop him. At the end of the miniseries, Doc faces a new era with a new team.
Like Perez, I hated this when it first came out because it was so off the usual path. I liked it better on rereading. I can appreciate O’Neil trying to do something different, and it is an interesting take. However:
•The ending alone, in which Long Tom confesses he betrayed Doc to Wessel, is just … no. Not believable (O’Neil said in an interview he saw Doc as a Christ figure so he needed a Judas). One reason I like this book better now is that a later writer mercifully retconned that away.
•More generally, O’Neil doesn’t seem familiar with Doc. No appearance by Pat, even with her beloved cousin dead. And why emphasize that Doc picked a bride from the Mayan valley but not Princess Mona (instead it’s some woman we’ve never heard of)?
•Pacifism is rarely done well in comics and this story is no exception. Let’s face it, the question of whether it’s right to solve problems with violence is irrelevant when you’ve got a madman plotting to wipe out the human race.
•That said, Clark is a strong character. Bo and Shoshona are kind of ordinary, where Dent’s supporting characters were typically quirky and colorful (Rapid Pace, Fluency Beech, Retta Kenn).
•The Kuberts do a great job with action scenes, but like Marvel’s artists, they get Doc’s crew wrong. Puny-looking Long Tom towers over everyone, and Ham, a fashion trend-setter, looks like he’s dressed for a Gay 90s party (that may be my ignorance of cool 1940s fashion, but I don’t think so).
So this was severely flawed (if not for the Long Tom retcon, horribly flawed) but certainly interesting. Collected in TPB as The Silver Pyramid if you’re curious.