Or – “The Strange Experience Of A New Artist…”
There are a few characters in my mind who can’t really be captured by anyone other than their creators. The Creeper never looks right drawn by anyone but Steve Ditko, only Neal Adams can capture the awesomeness of Megalith, and Darkseid never quite has the same gravitas from anyone other than Kirby. So it is with the Rocketeer, with the added problem of the creator passing away with only a few iconic stories completed. Can anyone make the adventures of Cliff Secord and company look as good as Stevens? Your Major Spoilers review awaits!
Previously, in The Rocketeer – Hollywood Horror: Cliff Secord is a stunt pilot in the late 1930s, who fell upon an experimental rocket pack built by either Howard Hughes or Doc Savage (or, in my mind, BOTH) that allows him to fly. His mentor Peavey keeps the rocket going, and his beloved Betty keeps Cliff going, and together they form The Rocketeer! But what menace hides in the majestic hills of Hollywoodland?
HEY, THEY LOOK FAMILIAR…
This issue opens with a couple of strangenesses for me, the first being a first-person narrator describing the action, quickly revealed and just as quickly left behind by a racing Cliff Secord, once again late for a date with Jenny. The other strangeness is in seeing our characters drawn in the distinctive style of J Bone, who works in a style that’s somewhere between Darwyn Cooke and Bruce Timm. Please note that there’s nothing WRONG with the art, but it’s very odd for me to pick up a Rocketeer story, recalling the Norman-Rockwell-with-cheesecake stylings of the late Dave Stevens, then end up seeing a much more stylized take on the characters. That said, the cheesecake factor is still there, as we get the traditional “Betty in her underwear” scene as she prepares for her date, and we meet her new roommate, a young reporter named Dahlia. (That’s NOT a good name to have in Hollywood in the 40s, but since we’re still in a nebulous pre-war setting, nobody will know that until ’47 or so.) The story is engaging, even with the oddly omniscient narrator, and we get to our first complication as Cliff flies over the city, intent on getting home. He gets an incidental save when Mutt and Jeff nearly fall to their deaths watching him fly over, and makes it to his date in the nick of time. Afterwards, he returns home to ANOTHER famous duo (or at least public domain representations thereof) finding Peevy at the mercies of a large simian-looking man and his well-dressed counterpart, who demand the return of the rocket!
AND SO DO THEY!
Ham and Monk (At least, I think it’s Ham, though my memory states that it was Long Tom who always wore the monocle) indicate that their boss has requested the return of the rocket, but Cliff makes a run for it, leaving Peevy to snarkily tell the duo to “Give my regards to Howard Hughes!” Things get even weirder and more referential as reasonable facsimiles of Nick and Nora Charles arrive, investigating the same missing scientist that reporter Dahlia was looking into, while the scientist (who is CLEARLY NOT Albert Einstein, but visits the same barber) is revealed to be involved in a plot with some otherworldly intentions. The art, once you get acclimated, is spot-on, making the whole issue feel a lot like “Rocketeer: The Animated Series”, and Betty has some of her best story moments ever here. Rather than just sashaying off in a huff over and over, she admits her respect for Cliff as the Rocketeer, offers to help, and even does some investigative legwork. (And what legs they ar– Naaah, too easy. Sorry.) There’s a lot going on in the story, and there may even be period references that I didn’t get, but they don’t detract from the tale being told. This would still be a good issue even if it weren’t delivering 40% of The Fabulous Five or the Thin Man, and the pacing is pretty wonderful throughout the issue…
BOTTOM LINE: WELL-DONE INDEED.
All in all, there’s a lot to love here, in an issue that’s packed with details, plot and cameos, and a nice cliff-hanger (no pun intended) to round it all off. Langridge revels in the Rocketeer’s world, and Bone’s art (while not at all what I expected) is pretty wonderful throughout the book. The Rocketeer – Hollywood Horror #1 has me ready to sign up for a full run by these creators, excelling on both the art and story front, and delivering on the fun that the Rocketeer is meant to entail, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. I didn’t make it all the way through the previous miniseries, ‘Cargo of Doom’, for reasons related more to time than to quality, but I won’t be missing any issues this time around…
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!