THIS REVIEW OF DR. LOVE WAVE AND THE EXPERIMENTS’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Seeing innovators tapped into creative conduits, exploring their combined potential, attracts. Partly it’s the enjoyment of finding talents willing to take chances by departing the mainstream with casual confidence. Abandoning the comics traffic jam with certainty that the audience they’re playing to gets it and follows along. Those projects often achieve memorable enchantment.
Like the band that fashioned their love of H.P. Lovecraft and rock music into an album. Then layered on a role-playing game based on its musical themes, citing a German cult sci-fi TV show as inspiration. Care and attention to detail through every aspect of their album and RPG made for terrific music and a solid, unique gaming experience. (It’s the out-of-print media masterpiece Spaceship Zero. Score a copy and read it before digging up too much background to avoid spoilers.)
Writer Greg Gustin, teamed up with artists V. Gagnon and Michael Kennedy with letterer Joamette Gill, invests comparable intensity and passion into Dr. Love Wave and the Experiments #1. In similar cross-media fashion, they have a rockin’ Spotify playlist adding to the experience:
Gustin’s team belts out raw harmonies of art and script, sweeping readers along like barroom regulars on open mic night. Their tempo builds a paced rise to crescendo with the primary story’s final panels, wherein the good Doctor and the Experiments take center stage. By contrast, details travel at an accelerated clip building to that moment. For the opening act, issue #1 rocks hard with a steady heartbeat.
Said act comes in two sets. Story 1 introduces the band, several important support players, and at least one smeggy antagonist. Story 2 is the backstory for Doctor Love Wave. Just as stage personas invoking Demons, Catmen, Starchildren, and Space Aces have tickled audience fancies, so too with these Sci-Fi Surf Rockers. It’s more of a performance cosplay for them. Should future issues emulate this pattern, we’ll also see persona origins for Intergalactic Orthopedist Jessie Jupiter, Zeef the Nardonian and AG-6000.
In the feature story, Milt Summers is a cubicle worker coping with his mundane world and the first anniversary of his mother’s death. But he’s also making progress with his local band as Dr. Love Wave and the Experiments. Their songs are getting noticed, they seem on the cusps of breakthrough from local gigs to something bigger. An invasion of water-filching aliens is the last thing they expect, and yet their Madre Bay home becomes Madre Dunes overnight.
Nostalgia riffs and runs play across the first issue. If Buckaroo Banzai is the cinematic godparent to the main story, Jerry Lewis’s The Nutty Professor is the second story’s forebearer. Meanwhile, the band’s most popular song deals with a cosmos-tubing surfer girl. The second feature acknowledges the inspirations of Lee and Kirby.
Milt’s situation, dealing with loss through his creative drive and artistic vision, mirrors experiences Gustin and V. Gagnon endured in their own lives. The book’s sense of joyful expression despite serious subject matter brings a restorative vibe readers can share in. Not one of banal platitudes, but clever good humor proposing creative entertainment as the most healing, elevating pursuit.
The backup feature is a libidinous origin mimicking a Silver Age ‘scientist hero’ cut from the lab coats of Hank Pym and Ted Kord. It’s a nigh-perfect satire of staple Marvel tales which became foundations for the original House of Ideas. No Pym particles here, though.
Instead, Milt Summers plies his chemistry brilliance into a different wonder weapon: A chemsex enhancer with seismic capability. Delicately put: Quake or Geo-Force, if their powers were brought on by arousal. Indelicately—and the story never goes for the indelicate or perverse—bedrock shattering, sinkhole forming climaxes.
Of the adolescent power fantasies comics provided over the Ages, this may be the most honest. Superpowers from mind-control to pheromone manipulation suggest the concept; Hellfire Club lingerie uniforms and hirsute, ripped Canadian mutants whipping out Adamantium oversell it. They’re lights and mirrors compared to the Love Wave version of Miraclo. Gustin and artist Michael Kennedy keep it from tottering into the tawdry, making it even funnier.
Both Kennedy and primary story artist V. Gagnon reflect Gustin’s style in each of their contributions. Gagnon’s hyperbolized, slice-of-life-made-suave sensibility matches the band’s tale on stage and off. Kennedy’s work on the backstory mirrors an early Marvel Masterpiece deemed too saucy by the Comics Code.
Not every panel reads smoothly or glides effortlessly, but those few instances are a fair trade for what the team accomplishes. They create their own unique beat and tempo while keeping the joyous nucleus of this book intact. It may be fun, it may be funny, but it’s also a celebration. Milt’s an artist turning loss and talent into a positive force, a force to inspire, soothe, and entertain listeners. Ditto Gustin and his Experiments, though likely not thwarting an actual extraterrestrial invasion. But hey, this is 2020.
comiXology / Gumroad / $3.99
Written by Greg Gustin.
Art by V. Gagnon, Michael Kennedy.
Letters by Joamette Gill, Michael Kennedy.
7.5 out of 10
Check out this 3-page preview of ‘Dr. Love Wave and the Experiments’ #1!