I'm a big fan of older, pulp-style characters. . .Green Hornet, The Shadow, Zorro, The Spirit, The Lone Ranger. . .so on and so forth. I discovered The Rocketeer through the Disney movie and assumed he was a character from that same era of heroes. After I hunted down some comics and information, I was surprised to learn that the Rocketeer was a product of the 80's! Despite that, I consider him one of the greatest pulp heroes ever created, and that he stands perfectly alongside his fellow heroes of a bygone age. Let's take a look at some of his more recently-written adventures. . .
ROCKETEER ADVENTURES 2 (IDW)
In this first issue of IDW's second Rocketeer Adventures anthology series, we have three stories and a pinup to consider. . .
THE GOOD GUYS:
The first thing that caught my eye on this story is how almost perfectly the artist captures not only the look, but the feel of Dave Steven's art style! It's a little spooky, in a way, but fantastic. . .
The story is okay. Not much to it. The Rocketeer is shot down during a dogfight and the residents of a small town have to decide whether or not to turn him over to the authorities. I give this one 3 stars.
This story is based on the fact that if the Rocketeer DID exist, he'd be celebrated in many ways. . .including being made fun of in Looney Toon-type cartoons before movies.
This is basically a Daffy Duck/Marvin the Martian cartoon set on paper with Daffy playing the part of the Rocketeer. It's just as wacky and off the hook as those great old cartoons are. I thought it was pretty funny, but Bill Sienkiewicz's art isn't a great fit for it, and sort of takes away from the humor a bit because of the unique nature of his art style. I give this one 3 stars.
A DREAM OF FLYING:
This story is rendered in a very cartoony style that would have been perfect for the previous entry.
The story itself is about a boy that saves the Rocketeer and is rewarded with a flight with his hero. It has a clever twist at the end where it doesn't say it explicitly, but hints that the boy is a very young Clark Kent (the future Superman). I give this one three stars as well.
The cover is fantastic and worth of a frame on the wall. The pinup is unfortunately pretty forgettable.
All in all, I give this issue a good 4 star rating. The only criticism I would have on it is that if you aren't already a fan of The Rocketeer, this is NOT a good introduction. It fully assumes you have knowledge of The Rocketeer and just goes from there.
Three stories and a pinup in this second issue of IDW's second Rocketeer Adventures anthology series. . .
WORK TO DO:
This story takes place on a miserable, rainy, European battlefield during WWII. The art is simply fantastic here. . .it's dark and very detailed. Normally I associate The Rocketeer with brighter hues, but the art fits the tone of the story perfectly here.
The story itself is pretty simple. The Rocketeer going to fight a giant war machine, but delaying long enough to save a single wounded man who needs help. It really paints the picture of The Rocketeer as a true hero. I liked this story a lot and give it a solid 4 stars.
BETTY'S BIG BREAK:
This story is played more for laughs, and is based on Cliff Secord's almost insane jealousy over his hot amateur actress girlfriend as he spies on her during the filming of her first big part and accidentally ends up in the movie too.
I like seeing stories about how jealous Cliff is over Betty, but this one sort of fell flat. The art is done in a stiff throwback style that wasn't really that great either. I give this one 3 stars. Not bad, but not that good either.
A simple story about The Rocketeer saving a woman from being kidnapped by thugs and it turning out to be Judy Garland. What I liked most about this story was the fantastic artwork! It's sharp, detailed, and heavily-inked. There's one shot of The Rocketeer flying up from the street that I would love to have as a poster. A solid 4 star story here. Very nice.
The regular cover by Cooke isn't that good, but I have the Stevens cover, which is great. The pinup by Campbell is just okay. . .but the sense of height he puts into the background is awesome.
All in all this issue is the best so far and gets a solid 4, almost 5, stars.
Three more stories and a pinup.
Let's do this!
COULDA BEEN. . .:
After Cliff ruins Betty's night with his jealousy AGAIN, he flies her to the countryside to show her a farmhouse he's been thinking of buying. This leads to reflection from both of them on what their life would be like if they settled down. Cliff becoming a farmer and Betty taking care of the kids. They realize they love each other for what they are and they don't have the right to take each other's dreams away. It's a very nice story and digs deep into the relationship between Cliff and Betty. The art is also nicely done. It's a different kind of Rocketeer story, but I liked it. I give this one 3 stars.
BUTCHY SAVES BETTY:
This one is played more for laughs, turning the "Cliff is jealous of Betty" thing on its head as Betty interrupts Cliff auditioning a line of pretty girls for a stunt show with a shotgun. Hijinks ensue and Cliff's dog Butch ends up being the hero and saving the day. I liked the goofy nature of the story, as well as the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge." un-named cameo of The Shadow's alter ego Lamont Cranston, but I'm not a big fan of Kyle Baker's art, and it seemed even worse than usual on this story. Good with bad, I give this one 3 stars. The Shadow saves it from 2.
This was a pretty unusual Rocketeer story. It's told mostly with a series of full-page montage scenes until the end, when it's revealed that the narrator is teaching a history lesson about The Rocketeer to students in a far future classroom. It ends with school being dismissed and showing that everyone is flying around with jetpacks. A nice little story with an interesting twist. Unfortunately, the highly-stylized art is distracting. It's not bad, it's just an odd choice. . .and Rocketeer's helmet just looks weird. Matt Wagner wrote this story, I would have LOVED to see his art on this story as well. Big Wagner art fan here. A damn shame. I give it 3 stars.
The Cooke cover is simply fantastic. The pinup by Eric Powell is so-so, except for his rendition of The Rocketeer himself, which is outstanding. I'd love to see him illustrate a full story.
All in all, I give this issue 3 stars. It's pretty good. Not bad, but nothing really standing out either.
3 more stories and a pinup to look at in this finale to IDW's second Rocketeer Adventures series. . .
Set in 1942 after the Pearl Harbor attack, Cliff finds himself blocked from joining the military and relegated to making War Bond appearances as The Rocketeer because of his originally stealing his jetpack from the government. He proves his worth to the President by preventing a suicide bombing attack on the U.S. Capital. The story was okay, but fell a little flat. The art was about the same. . .okay, but nothing special. Three stars for this one.
CLIFF SECORD, WARLORD OF BLARGON:
This story is a bit of a mess. It's about The Rocketeer travelling to another world where everything is pretty much the opposite of what he thinks it is. I'd say this is the worst story of the whole series. It has a few funny moments based on his utter misunderstanding of the aliens and their actions, but it just seems like a filler strip at the end of an indie comic. The brightly-colored and overly- simplistic art reinforces the whole Indie comic feel of this. The Rocketeer is pulp, not Indie.
No Bueno! Two stars.
I got a definite sense of deja vu reading this final story. That's because basically, it's the same story as the first one in this issue. The Rocketeer stops a suicide bomber from killing the King of England during a visit to the World's Fair. It seems like a strange choice to put two stories that are so similar in the same issue. The story itself is okay and art is okay, but neither one are anything special. I give it 3 stars.
The regular Cooke cover isn't that good, but the Stevens cover I have is absolutely spectacular! The pinup by J.K. Snyder III is pretty good, especially the figure of the Rocketeer himself. He's another one I'd like to see illustrate a whole story.
All in all, we have two stories that are almost reflections of each other bookending strange Indie crap. The cover and pinup save the issue from a 2 star rating. I'd still say this one is the worst of the four. A damn shame. The Rocketeer deserves better.
There you have it, IDW's 4 issue Rocketeer Adventures 2 mini series.
Overall, I found this to be a great mini, and would highly suggest it. It has a few rough spots here and there, but good taken with bad, I feel that there was a lot of respect shown for the character and a pretty wide-ranging variety of stories and art with a nice, high-quality presentation by IDW.
The only real BAD point of this series is that the reader is pretty much assumed to already be a fan of The Rocketeer and to know all about the character coming in. This is probably not the best doorway to becoming a fan of The Rocketeer if you're coming in cold with little or no knowledge of the character. It's a good tribute to a great character, but a lousy introduction.
Up next. . .
Anybody remember that little thing DC did a few years back that, you know. . .CHANGED THEIR WHOLE PUBLISHING LINE? That little thing called "Flashpoint"? Remember how they put out a bunch of little mini's about characters that we never really got to hear much about again?
Flashpoint: Project Superman. Be there or be square!
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Issue # 519