I’ve got a certain love for old-time pulp comic heroes done right. I was a big fan of the Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer strip, even before they went and made an amazing film out of it and while I have somewhat less admiration for Will Eisner’s Spirit, when these two classic powerhouses get together, it’s just something I have to read.
IDW and DC collaborated to get Cliff Secord and Denny Colt (Spirit’s real name, but virtually never used) together for this 4-issue mini-series. So let’s take a look at two pulp heroes in their epic adventure in Pulp Friction.
IDW has been pushing a Rocketeer revival of late, they’ve already released several mini-series starring the soaring flyboy, now that there’s been word going around of a big budget Hollywood remake of the 1991 film.
All good collaborations have to start with a good story. With the newfangled television on the brink of existence, Benjamin Trask wants to control the airwaves and comes into conflict with a Central City alderman who wants them to remain free and under public control. Therefore, it’s no surprise when the alderman ends up dead, but his body is dumped 3000 miles away in Hollywood, the stomping grounds of the Rocketeer. The Spirit is called in to help and when he and Cliff Secord aren’t bashing craniums or fighting with their girlfriends, they try to solve the murder and come face to face with Trask’s real reason for wanting to control the airwaves, he has a new secret technology that can teleport objects across the country, if only he can perfect it! But what happens to Betty, Cliff’s girlfriend, when she finds herself sent through the infernal device? The only way you’ll know is to read the mini-series!
Mark Waid’s writing cleaves a perfect balance between the classic 40s comic styling and modern sensibilities. It’s slow enough to allow the reader to enjoy the scenery, but not so slow that they lose track of the plot. The characters are permitted to explain themselves to the reader who might not be familiar with them between the action scenes and villainous mustache-twisting. I never felt like I didn’t get the larger picture, although granted, I have read everything Dave Stevens ever did on the Rocketeer, as well as IDW’s latest offerings. The problem, unfortunately, comes with the art. The first issue was done by Paul Smith in a much more realistic style, the second by Loston Wallace in a lesser realistic style and the second two by J. Bone in a very cartoony style. It’s unfortunate that Smith was unable to complete the book because I think the art really suffers as the book goes on. No disrespect to Wallace or Bone, but I’d much rather have seen a more realistic style throughout. Granted, I wouldn’t have complained if it had been Wallace or Bone throughout, I just have a problem with art styles changing dramatically in the middle of a book. Pick one, guys.
Every single Rocketeer book that IDW has put out recently has been good and it’s a great departure from typical modern-day superhero fare. There’s just something fun about the radio and movie serials of yesteryear and the Rocketeer plays into that perfectly. I’d even be happy to read Spirit comics if DC would put more of them out. They had a 32-issue ongoing at one point, but that wrapped up in 2009. Still, there’s something in the pacing and the innocence of these stories that is quite appealing, it clears the palate of the spandex-wearing, action-oriented comic book superheroes we see so often today and that’s good for everything.
I can’t wait to see what IDW comes out with next. I hope they actually do make a new Rocketeer movie and even if it’s half as good as the 1991 flick, I’m going to be a fan.