DUELING REVIEW: Rocketeer Adventures #3 (of 4)

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ROBOT OVERLORD:  It has been an incredible week for my little meat bags!  Matthew and Stephen may be worn out from all the San Diego Comic Con coverage, but I’m cracking the whip and ordering them to crank out a Dueling Review for your pleasure!  But I am a benevolent Robot Overloard, and am allowing them to pick the title they will review!

MATTHEW: Rocketeer Adventures #3, your Overlordness?

ROBOT OVERLORD: MY WILL BE DONE!

ROCKETEER ADVENTURES #3
Writers:  Joe R. Lansdale, Jonathan Ross & Ryan Sook
Artists: Tommy Lee Edwards, Ryan Sook & Bruce Timm
Covers:  Alex Ross & Dave Stevens
Editor: Scott Dunbier
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in The Rocketeer:  Brash young pilot Cliff Secord came into possession of a special backpack unit, containing a powerful jet engine that allows one to fly.  Created by Clark Savage Jr. (or possibly Howard Hughes, depending upon whom one asks) the rocket allows Cliff to forget his hardscrabble life during the Great Depression and become a one-man flying squadron against evil:  The ROCKETEER!  With the help of Peavey, his curmudgeonly mechanic, and the lovely Betty, who has issues staying dressed, The Rocketeer fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and an honest buck…

MATTHEW:  I’ve whined about it before, but the Alex Ross covers really don’t do this book any favors…  That level of faux-naturalism really plays against the more cartoonish (in all the best ways) interior art, especially those artists who work in Dave Stevens-type vein.

STEPHEN:  Ah, you’re just jealous that I got to talk with Gail Simone at Planet Comic Con, and you didn’t…

MATTHEW: WHAT!?

STEPHEN:  What? Oh… Alex Ross… yeah, whatever… I like the cover as it offers up just the right amount of tease with a classic Dave Stevens pose.  The fact there are a tad too may wrinkles in the pants doesn’t bother me that much, ’cause really, my my eyes are looking at something else on that cover.

MATTHEW: I suppose I shouldn’t complain, as Alex fans might not notice this book otherwise, and I DO have the option of purchasing a cover by Dave, as well.  This issue, like the first two, is an extension of the themes of the original Rocketeer series (hard to believe there were only a handful of issues ever produced) with work by a Who’s Who of creators, including our kickoff story by Ryan Sook.

STEPHEN: Yeah, this is a nice relationship story about Cliff and Betty, but not in a good way. On the night of Betty’s big break where she ends up with a talking role in an Errol Flynn movie, Cliff not only shows up late, but has to show up to the movie premiere as the Rocketeer to prevent a heist, thus ruining her big moment, and taking the spotlight away from his love.  It’s one of those little stories that not only shows how relationships between the hero and his love are often at odds, but it also creates a bigger wedge between the two.

MATTHEW:  Another niggling little problem with the first story in the issue is that it feels a bit familiar (although I’m not sure why.)  The sentiment is wonderful, and the sight of Betty in tears as the rocket once again keeps her and Cliff apart (metaphorically speaking, anyway, we’re not getting perverse here) is a beautiful moment, but there’s a shopworn quality to the plotting here.  Of course, it looks phenomenal, so it’s not as though I’m disappointed.

STEPHEN:  While I like what Sook does here, there’s something about the coloring that is off.  The rendered effects (Betty’s dress) against the regular colors and inks, just don’t do it for me.

MATTHEW: And as of the second story, I think they’re specifically tailoring this book with us as the target audience, because Joe Lansdale is one of my favorite writers of all time and you used to stalk Bruce Timm…

STEPHEN:  I didn’t stalk him!  I just can’t come within 50 yards of him until 2015.  What makes this little chapter so nice is that Landsdale and Timm did this story up in the same style that we might have seen in the pages of The Shadow or Doc Savage back in the day.  But this is a prose piece in  comic book, and I can hear the Intardwebz Nerd Rage starting to build, “I bought a comic book, not a regular book.  If I wanted to buy a regular book, I would have gone to Borders, if they weren’t out of business.”

As for me, the story is nice, but I think I would rather have seen eight pages of Landsdale comic story, with Timm doing eight pages of art…

MATTHEW:  Either way, the text piece is my favorite part of any issue thus far, and I really enjoy the closing bit, wherein Betty gets to turn the tables and save Cliff for a change (while dressed as a superhero, no less.)  When this book was announced, I wasn’t sure how they’d pull off additional adventures without the creator, but it’s clear that this is as much a tribute as it is a story.  And therein lies the rub for me…  As much as I enjoyed this (and the previous issues), it seems like the creators are returning to mine a vein over and over, and running the risk of turning the Rocketeer into a parody of itself.  Cliff is a schlub, Betty wears garters, Peavey grumbles, lather, rinse, repeat.

STEPHEN:  That is a problem, but that is also what makes Cliff and Betty (and the rest) such a fun crew.  We know what we are getting, and really, if you read enough Doc Savage the formula pretty much flowed through all of the pulps of the time period.

There is only one more issue to go, and I too expect more of the same, but if there is enough interest, perhaps IDW Publishing would be so kind as to give us a Rocketeer ongoing with a rotating team from the best stories from this mini-series.  Just a thought for IDW EiC Chris Ryall to consider as he gets ready for the second half of 2011.

MATTHEW:   I probably shouldn’t be damned genre-savvy, but seein’ as how it pays (part of) the bills I can’t quite get away from it.  As much as parts of this issue were wonderful, I’m starting to get restless for more ground-breaking stuff.  When we reviewed The Rocketeer trade those many months ago, I was amazed at how well the original story held up.  The first issue of this book was a wonderful flashback for me, the second was somewhat less entertaining, and by #3 I’m fifty-fifty on it.  As much as I love Cliff and Betty, we’re kind of verging on turning into a cover band here, and as such Rocketeer Adventures #3 earns a (still strong) 3 out of 5 stars overall from Matthew.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

STEPHEN: I agree with you here.  This book just wasn’t as strong as I hoped it would be. I still enjoyed the heck out of it, but ultimately I can only give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

ROBOT OVERLORD:  FINALLY!  I thought you two ladies would never finish this review.  I have a warm tub of 40-weight and a copy of Popular Science waiting for me at home.

As I calculate Matthew and Stephen’s overall rating, I leave it to you, the loyal Spoilerites (who someday will rise up and do my bidding) to decide if Cliff Secord deserves and ongoing series, or if IDW should let the property rest for a few years.

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆