REVIEW: Rocketeer Adventures #1

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Or – “The Legend Of Cliff Secord…”

The late Dave Stevens was known for his art: beautiful women, vintage cars and weapons, stylized characters and classic wardrobes made his work a joy to look at.  With The Rocketeer, Dave tapped into a vein of nostalgic adventure similar to what George Lucas hit a few years earlier (the comics came out in ’82, for those of y’all that only remember the movie.)  Now that he has left us, Dave’s best known characters are returning from IDW Publishing, with all-star creative teams taking on Cliff, Betty, Peavey and the whole gang.  Will The Rocketeer still fly high without his creator?

ROCKETEER ADVENTURES #1
Writer(s): John Casaday/Mike Allred/Kurt Busiek
Artist(s): John Casaday/Mike Allred/Michael Kaluta/Mike Mignola/Jim Silke
Colorist(s): Laura Martin/Laura Allred/Dave Stewart
Letterer(s): Chris Mowry/Mike Allred
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, on The Rocketeer: When an experimental jetpack went missing, it fell into the hands of daredevil pilot Cliff Secord.  Thanks to the tech know-how of his mechanic pal Peavey, Cliff was the first man to test the rocket, crossing paths with Clark Savage and Lamont Cranston and just generally having fun with the pulp hero concept.  Cliff’s adventures now continue with the latest episode of “The Rocketeer!”  *trumpet fanfare!*

Rule #1:  Get The Art!

When I heard this series was coming out, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  If you’re going to relaunch a title so inextricably tied to one artist, you better cover your bases for the pictures.  While nobody does it quite like Dave, the lineup for this issue is impressive:  Mike Allred, Mike Kaluta, Mike Mignola, and even a couple of guys not named Mike!  John Casaday leads off the issue with a cute little tale that ends with a strong character turn for girlfriend Betty (and a sore jaw for Cliff), while Mike Allred channels a little bit of Kirby and some Windsor McKay for his segment.  But the clear centerpiece of the issue for me is the closing tale, with Kaluta delivering a lovely 1940′s wartime tale that has a few moments that are clear tributes to Dave Stevens.  All three of the tales (and the pin-ups besides) are gorgeously rendered, and uphold the legacy of The Rocketeer (if there can be said to be such a thing.)

Rule #2: None O’ That ‘Batman’ Nonsense!

What I enjoy most of all, though, is Cliff/The Rocketeer himself.  Far from being a flawless ubermensch, he gets by on luck and daring, avoiding imminent doom by the thinnest skin of his teeth.  Both Casaday and Allred’s tales feel like episodes of a larger series, but Kurt Busiek (y’know, the guy from Astro City?) delivers a huge punch with the last tale, never losing sight of the fact that Cliff is a normal schlub thrust into abnormal circumstances.  Girlfriend Betty is represented well in the issue, refusing to take any guff even from her high-flying boyfriend, and the action sequences are well-paced.  My only real complaint about the issue was the fight to get the Dave Stevens version of the cover, as the Alex Ross version is less attractive.  I will say, however, that Alex has done a pretty good job in muting his usual glow-in-the-dark computer coloring style to deliver a cover that manages to capture the feel of Stevens work on the character while still doing his hyper-realism schtick.

The Verdict:  Jet-Fueled Tribute To A Lost Master

Earlier this week, Kurt Busiek said on Twitter (yeah, I’m on Twitter…  Shush…) that this was “The Dave Stevens Tribute Album,” and in that respect it’s a smashing success.  All the creators involved are clearly fans of Dave’s work as much as they are doing their job, and the results are phenomenal.  None of these creators are scheduled for next month, as best I can tell, which may mean that the vignettes we read are intentionally not going to continue next month, but that’s okay.  There were only three Rocketeer stories in the better part of 20 years, but I like the way this issue shows us small moments from what could be inferred as a long career in the mystery man business for Mr. Secord.  Rocketeer Adventures #1 was my favorite book of the week, and the only thing that would improve it for me would be Dave himself still producing it, leading this one to earn 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  I’m not sure how long this title is scheduled to be around, or how long it would really be able to last without either dropping in quality or running the well dry, but it’s worth your 4 bucks to go along for the ride.

Rating: ★★★★½

 

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Of all the post-’89-Batman-wave movies, Rocketeer is probably my favorite.  What’s your favorite comic movie from that era?