Friday, August 17, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: The Rocketeer-The Complete Adventures

It's been a long time coming, but I have finally gotten around to reading The Rocketeer.  An especially long time given the fact that I've been reading the Rocketeer Adventures tribute comics that IDW has been putting out.  Needless to say, I was past due on reading the original Rocketeer material.

The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures is just what it advertises, all the Rocketeer material that Dave Stevens created before he passed on.  Sadly, it's only eight issues worth comics, but I'll take what I can get because this stuff is pure comics gold.

I guess I didn't really know what to expect going into this read.  I didn't know how much time it would spend on the origin story, and how much it would get into high-flying rocket-pack action...there's a good amount of both...but I had high expectations nonetheless. I'd seen how good the tribute material was, so I expected the original stuff to be even better.  I can't say that Stevens' stuff is better, but I can definitely say that the tribute material does justice to the quality of the original material.  And make no mistake, the original stuff is quite good.

Stevens does a great job of introducing the reader to the world of Cliff Secord, his gal Betty (based on the old-timey pin-up model Betty Page), and his friends.  The character interactions are pretty fun, and I especially loved how jealous of a boyfriend Cliff's pretty hilarious.  That said, as a guy who has been known to get jealous a time or two, I could relate.

Before I gush too much more though, I should relay a bit of the plot...

Basically, a group of thieves steal a fancy experimental rocket pack from the U.S. government and try to make an escape, but they're foiled in the escape.  Said rocket pack is left in the cockpit of Cliff Secord's stunt plane, which Cliff soon discovers. Being the stunt pilot that he is, Cliff can't resist trying it out and his first flight results in an amateur-ass rocket pack rescue. The rescue could loosely be defined as a success, however, it leaves Cliff the target of both G-Men and the Nazis.

The Rocketeer has a great golden age feel to the story, and really delivers a strong sense of adventure.  Put plainly, this is flat out a lot of fun to read.  It's a story that will capture your imagination and make you wish that you had a rocket pack of your own.  Granted, if I did, I would definitely use it to impress my lady, and to rake in the bucks at airshows just like Cliff.

Though the writing in The Rocketeer is great, it's Stevens' art that is the real star here.  The guy is an  incredible artist, and that shows on each and every panel.  He isn't a guy that loads the panels up with a ton of detail, or elaborate settings, but he has the ability to let the art tell a lot of the story through character expressions and body language.  His action scenes are quite good too, as they have that cinematic feel that makes you feel like you are part of the action. There are times when it feels like Stevens crammed too many panels onto the page, but other times when he lets everything breathe, and gives huge panels to important scenes...and when he hits you with a splash page...look out!

The Complete Adventures contains an origin story, and one other Rocketeer adventure in NYC, but though it contains all of Dave Stevens' Rocketeer material, it doesn't feel all that complete.  The reason being that there's so much more space for more material and more adventures.  Sadly, we wont get anymore material from Stevens, but thanks to IDW and numerous other creators who love this character and Stevens' vision, there's two trades worth of Rocketeer short comics from a laundry list of all-star creators, not to mention, the forthcoming Rockteer: Cargo of Doom. That'll have to be enough to tide me over because this reading experience left me wanting more Rocketeer material.

Obviously, for fans of the character, this is a must read.  For those who don't realize they are fans yet, this is an iconic character that deserves to be enjoyed by a wider audience.  Overall, a great read that is a lot of fun to devour.  Highly recommended.

Grade: A