Monday, September 18, 2023

The Rocketeer At War!

I went to a lot of trouble to find a copy of The Rocketeer at War story for reading this month. I passed it up when it hit the stands originally and had never really thought much about it since. But it's been hard to find and I spent a little more than I wanted to land a copy in a timely manner. And after all that effort, I was pretty disappointed in this adventure, which to my mind is easily the worst Rocketeer story to date. 

The story fails on a number of counts. The artwork is suspect. I'm more than willing to entertain a variety of styles on this character, but the storytelling must be competent, and the basic draftsmanship must be above average. This has suspect storytelling and the plain old drawing is weak, weaker than I'd have expected IDW to accept. The writer is Marc Guggenheim and the artist for the first to chapters is Mike Bullock, who is replaced on the last two installments by Jay Bone. I'm on record as liking Bone's take on Rocketeer, but his work here seems rushed and is weaker than what I've seen before. I suspect he did this in a rush. Bullock's work is okay, in places reminiscent of Kevin O'Neill, but it's very uneven.

The story begins with Cliff Secord in the army fighting in North Africa. He has given his rocket to the military who are testing it with limited success. He is eventually asked to come back and resume the role, and that leaves a giant question as to why he was not there from the get-go. I assume he got permission from the unseen owners of the rocket to do what he did. In very quick succession we meet new characters such as ace flyer Molly O'Hara and a Nazi in a strange flying outfit, one which makes him resemble Batman. Betty is dancing for the USO and Peevy gets collected to help with the rocket. Later still we meet another Nazi called Blitzkrieg who uses a Nazi version of the rocket. We also have a partnership between the Japanese and the Nazis. What I'm trying to say is that there are a lot of parts in this relatively short yarn, perhaps too many. 

The key problem is that at its core The Rocketeer is a saga driven by character and not so much by plot. It's a good old-fashioned serial, but one with a richness of character those movies often lack. Stevens gave us a serial hero, but one with foibles and a great heart to go with his reckless courage. The love between Cliff and Betty is also bedrock and while that is on display in his story, it's shoehorned in with Betty taking part in action sequences which make little sense. The plot rules in this story and it's a bit  hairbrained. 

(Nick Bradshaw)

This collection features additional art by Bullock and alternate cover art by Nick Bradshaw who draws a way better Rocketeer than we seen in the comic. We also get a short story by Lisa Morton titled "The Rivet Gang" which is set after the war. I'll be taking a look at this story later this month. Below are the covers for this disappointing Rocketeer limited series.  

Rip Off

No comments:

Post a Comment