Monday, April 22, 2013
Comic Review: The Rocketeer Cargo of Doom
It will come as no surprise to readers that I am a huge fan of the pulps, of movie serials, and classic adventure stories. I think old timey stuff is the bee’s knees, the berries, swell even. So when I saw The Rocketeer many years ago, I thought it was the business. And when I found out it was based on a comic, which was itself inspired by all those old serials and pulps I loved, I knew I had to read it. Sadly, it was out of print and next to danged impossible to find. Eventually seeing a reprint, I was able to enjoy Dave Stevens’ kick-butt original stories for the first time only a few years ago. I was in hog heaven. But that was it. He wrote only enough to be collected in one standard sized hardcover graphic novel. And he died. That was it. But then a bunch of comic people who loved it too came together and made some more stories, The Rocketeer Adventures, which were nice brief reads. And I guess it was popular enough that Cargo of Doom came about; a four issue story that has enough time to feel like it’s got more meat.
Mark Waid is a comic mainstay, and his name isn’t always attached to impressive projects. But he was one of the early guys I read when I was getting into comics with the Crossgen lines. And I have to give him credit for capturing the right tone for this book. It’s got enough ‘aw gee, shucks’ innocence and dashing adventure, and lacks cynicism that might make it descend into parody. It’s pretty pitch perfect in its continuation of Stevens’ work, drawing on the things he clearly loved. This story is rooted in one of my favorites, too. Yes, there’s a ship heading to L.A. recently out of a certain mystery shrouded South Pacific island. It’s not the first ship from that island to bring dangerous cargo Stateside, and the last time things didn’t go too well, either. The art also manages to strike a balance of quality, retro, fun, and exciting. Chris Samnee uses more traditional panel design to good effect. Something about the look of the whole reminded me of Tin-Tin comics.
Mark Waid sets up some larger story threads here that I hope mean more tales are on the way. Who is the mysterious puppet-master behind the importation of dangerous beasts? Will Cliff start to notice Sally as she becomes a woman? How will Betty deal with potential competition; will she realize that bitchy jealousy isn’t the answer? And where will conflicted loyalties eventually lead people? Here’s hoping we find out. In fact, just a week before sitting down to this collected volume, I heard tell that Waid is slated to do another Rocketeer story. Time will tell.
The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom
Author: Mark Waid
Artist: Chris Samnee