“The year is 1987, and N.A.S.A. launches the last of America’s deep space probes. In a freak mishap Ranger 3 and its pilot Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers are blown out of their trajectory into an orbit which freezes his life support systems, and returns Buck Rogers to Earth five-hundred years later.”  Don’t worry, this series is nothing like the 1980’s television series – and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Buck04COVER.jpgSo far, Buck Roger’s gravity drive has propelled him into a future where humans and mutated/enhanced animals fight against one another with animals hunting humans for food. Buck and Wilma have temporarily escaped the clutches of The Pack, by setting down on Mars.  There the duo discover the remains of a 500 year old colony (brand new when Buck was in his own time), and attempt to find a way to get back to Earth.  It’s just too bad the big bad wolf (literally) is on their trail.

While Buck and Wilma try to outsmart and fight their lupine pursuer, Dr. Huer makes the connection that the newly arrived fellow is the long lost Buck Rogers, and the device everyone is carrying around is in fact the gravity drive.  This leads to a rescue attempt that requires Dr. Huer to hook the drive up to one of the fleet’s ships, and everything seems to work out by issues end.

It’s a pretty cut and dried story with the hero showing all the future people how they used to fight in the good ol’ days and prevailing in the end.  There are no real surprises at this point – unless you count the decapitated head of Twiki sitting on a warehouse shelf.

There’s something about the art that hasn’t had me feeling quite right since the beginning.  A great deal of architecture and environmental surroundings of this future environment looks like we might expect.  The black uniforms, with glowing white stripes that the corps wear, is a perfect example of what many of us might expect the design and style of our future fathers.  However, there’s so much retro 1930’s future design that things don’t mesh.  Sure, Buck and Wilma’s suits they wear on Mars are explained as old uniforms, but the Starbuster ship (supposedly one of the top ships in the fleet) looks like it came from a Buster Crabbe serial. Carlos Rafael does a good job at trying to blend the two together, but for the most part everything seems out of place.

I haven’t read a lot of Buck Rogers original works, so the Pack story is not one that I’m familiar with, and with the dramatic switch between the hunter and the prey seems to be pretty original.  Unfortunately, it is an idea that is also way out on the fringe of ideas, that it comes off as really unbelievable – heck, even Buck, as the narrator of the tale, tells the reader that every science fiction story requires the audience to suspend disbelief.  It works to a point so far in this series, but the story is really starting to fall into the realm of the ridiculous.

And this is sad really, because I really hoped this series would be a grand re-introduction to the character of Buck Rogers and his dealing with the future people.  Instead, the title character has quickly transformed into someone who has seemingly no problem dealing with all the strange experiences around him, thus making him no different than Wilma Deering when it comes to confronting Hunter-Lupin.  Then again, there is a great deal of universe building that hasn’t been revealed just yet, so there could very easily be an explanation that answers all the problems I’ve had so far.

Still, Buck Rogers #4 is a well paced issue that includes the boon, the magic flight, and the crossing the threshold moments that encompass parts of the Hero’s Journey that could eventually lead this to a successful modern retelling of the classic future character (my mind flips trying to understand that bit too), but for now, Buck Rogers #4 earns 2.5 out of 5 Stars.


The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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  1. dman0001
    September 24, 2009 at 5:42 am — Reply

    I have been reading Buck Rogers since issue 1 and have been enjoying it. You are correct, there are elements of the retro gear that don’t seem to work (example the Ray Guns)

    I probably would give it a 3.5 out of 5 myself but thats me

  2. September 24, 2009 at 10:36 am — Reply

    I miss William Conrad…

  3. Doctor Zen
    September 24, 2009 at 1:42 pm — Reply

    “I haven’t read a lot of Buck Rogers original works, so the Pack story is not one that I’m familiar with”

    There was never any pack in the original, unless you count one scene where they go down in the wilderness and encounter a bear. Not even a mutated or enhanced one, just a bear.

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