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Location: Lancashire
Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
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Subj: Doc Savage #8 - Moral Absolutes.
Posted: Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 12:51:22 pm EDT (Viewed 205 times)

In what appears to be the final issue of the series Chris Roberson, with impressive assistance from artist Bilquis Evely, marks the end of his reign on the latest series and does so by delivering what may be one of the finest interpretations of Doc Savage to see print in modern times.
Not that this issue is without fault. But the ethos and moral imperative Clark Savage strives for is stripped back and reiterated in a simple but eloquently narrated story of one rigidly principled man caught up in a world that is anything but perfect. Caught in a web of catastrophe of which he himself unknowingly prepared the way for Savage's moral centre and seemingly simplistic ideology is put to serious test in a situation he can only seek to minimize said catastrophe. In aiming to advance mankind by contributing to its science and standard of life Savage's good intentions ran afoul of others who rather than celebrate his technological contributions saw only personal opportunity, and now the entire world suffers a global terror attack the likes of which no enemy of Doc Savage has ever managed...

It makes for an intriguing and thought provoking examination of Savage's moral core, the guilt and responsibility caused by this worldwide terror attack is certainly there to see, it is just unfortunate that due to the limited page count and the curtailing of the series the full ramifications to his previously impeccable reputation are left unresolved. It feels like a cheat. And yet the narrative itself compensates in other, rather celebratory, ways.
Savage's story is legend. This man who strides the world as a near Superman has been its very public benefactor and guardian for almost 100 years, kept young he occupies a place in the world that might almost transcend the law of mere man - having fought in both World Wars and been in constant action around the world ever since generations of the public both accept him and his example as being unquestionable. The shame in Chris Roberson's story is that he raises the spectre of doubt on this notion of infallibility in the supposedly perfect man but balks at showing the ramifications being played out.

'And they swore a Solemn oath that every member of Doc's team has continued to live by, In all the years since. To strive every moment to better themselves. To think only of the right and lend their assistance to any who need is. To Take what comes with a smile. To do right to all, And wrong to no man.'

With a distinctly authoritarian air to him Doc Savage remains something of an unsettling character study in todays world. Contradictory in the ethics he lives by his is a worldview born in a different era, when good and evil were judged in the most simple and uncompromising of ways and the solution to criminals was to liquidate them without hesitation. Chris Roberson unlike previous writers does not shy away from the more disturbing aspects of Clark Savage's practises, the clinic is still very much a part of this modern telling of the legend, so too is the overpowering air of superiority Savage embodies. An air that frequently can be interpreted as sheer blind arrogance. But in a welcome move the apparent aloofness of the character is something Roberson makes a strength of for this closing chapter of the series; when chaos engulfs society it is Savage and his team who have the answers, and no hesitation in applying them.
Both man of action and moral compass it is Savage who is elevated by this crisis to be the worlds rational disciplined mind, its human side. And as with the rest of the issue it is Roberson's dialoguing gift that elevates the issue beyond being just another saving of the day as the simple moral message by which he uses Doc Savage to send is both universally relevant and increasingly rare to see in todays comicbook adventure fiction - the basic need for understanding and compassion from one man to his neighbour, and pride in ones own sense of achievement and virtue.

The reluctant fighter. If the dilemma Chris Roberson asserts with this assessment of Clark Savage's lengthy career is to ask whether violent intervention can ever be avoided, or must instead be tolerated as a means to a peaceful end, then advocating that a man of Clark Savage's unparalleled brilliance has repeatedly found himself incapable of finding a non-violent course of resolution to his many adventures is wholly unconvincing. There are comparatively few problems in the world that one is either unable to walk away from magnanimously or unable to simply choose not to engage directly. One could make the comparison with Sherlock Holmes, a true man of intellect who's methods are primarily of careful collating of the facts and investigation - very rarely is physical confrontation required.
Clark Savage's attitude to any problem that presents itself though is invariably that of a very direct confrontation with the source and the threat of a lobotomy in his purpose run private clinic. Small wonder few ne'er do-wells wait for him to send them to such a disturbing fate. But more substantially the problem with Roberson's assertion is that problems in Doc Savage's world are invariably uncompromising and incapable of being reasoned with. This may be true with fanatics, but is it really true that Savage is regarded for diplomacy and an always open compassionate hand?
It is one of the uncertainties with the character that combines with his unflinching self-belief to present an intimidating and aloof figure who's sheer physicality and presence virtually guarantees a penchant for physical violence. Doc Savage as a concept is adventure fodder, the ultimate Boys Own man of action. The assertion that he always both strives for, and practices, non-violence and diplomacy is an almost absurd thing to suggest given his careers context...

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