Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by Chris Samnee
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Letters by Shawn Lee
Cover by Chris Samnee
Size: 32 pages
“Now imagine them with rockets!”
Though The Rocketeer first appeared in the early 1980s, he is a character out of the Saturday matinee serials of the 1930s and 40s. Back then kids of all ages would plop down their hard earned dimes and nickels (and back then they truly were hard earned) to watch the latest chapter of their favorite character’s daring adventure that always ended in an exciting cliff-hanger beckoning them back to the theater next week to find out how Flash Gordon or The Shadow or Batman survived to fight another day. They were often over-the-top adventures with fantastical elements that thrilled and chilled the audience of the day.
The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom by writer Mark Waid, artist Chris Samnee, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Shawn Lee is as pure and as wonderful a homage to those old serials as you’re likely to find. (Acknowledging the fact that the monthly superhero/adventure comics are basically Saturday matinee serials in static images.)
Anyone who has spent any time at iFanboy knows that we love The Rocketeer. Whatever magic that the late Dave Stevens tapped into when he created The Rocketeer and his friends over 30 years ago is still powerful and potent. Before, during, and after the second World War (depending on the story) aviator Cliff Secord just wants to fly planes but he finds himself constantly having to thwart the bad guys and save the day wearing a helmet and flying a experimental jet pack. It’s a simple premise that has inherent in it the capacity for exciting aerial adventures in an era when taking to the skies was still relatively new and exciting. Plus, the design of The Rocketeer himself, with his sleek art deco helmet, brown leather jacket, and jodhpurs, is one of the all-time great character designs in the history of comic books.
When IDW first announced that they were going to start publishing new Rocketeer comics there was much trepidation. Dave Stevens and his Rocketeer work is much beloved in the industry and his untimely death in 2008 is still fresh in many people’s minds. But the two anthology series that were published featured some of the most talented creators working in comics today and the love and the care and the respect with which they treated Stevens’ characters was apparent on every page. One of the best stories across those eight issues was written by Mark Waid, and when it was announced that he, along with his current Daredevil artist Chris Samnee were also working on a Rocketeer mini-series, well that announcement was a-okay in my book.
The first issue of The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom was fantastic. It was some of the most fun that I’ve had reading a comic book in a while. But the second issue has taken things to a whole new level.
When last we left our intrepid heroes it was 1940 and Cliff Secord was dealing with two problems, one known and one unknown. First, he was struggling with getting both his plane and himself certified for flight due to the crooked machinations of a creepy and immoral government inspector. Meanwhile, a dastardly group of shadowy and dangerous men were bringing secret and dangerous cargo into Los Angeles by boat. In this issue, those two story lines collide as The Master, the leader of the shadowy smugglers, attacks Cliff’s hanger while the new government inspector is on the scene, so of course he springs into action as The Rocketeer.
There is something purely exhilarating about The Rocketeer’s adventures. Strapping on a jet pack (as impractical as that would be in real life) and shooting off into the sky to do battle with all manner of rogue and villain (and often Nazi) is escapism fantasy at its grandest.
Bringing all this wonderful story to life is the art team of Chris Samnee and Jordie Bellaire who were, quite simply, made to draw and color The Rocketeer. This is one of the best looking books on the stands and it represents Chris Samnee’s best work in comics to date. He’s one of my favorite artists and I love what he’s doing on Daredevil, but given the Sophie’s Choice of picking one book over the other, I’d take this book every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Samnee’s old school art style and Bellaire’s bright and subtle coloring makes each page a joy to behold.
I was loving this issue as much as the last until I got to the big reveal, and that’s when The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #2 became the shoe-in for Pick of the Week. (Not to mention that the title finally made complete sense.) After tracking the baddies to their boat, The Rocketeer attempted a stealthy infiltration only to find himself captured, with one of the giant henchmen hilariously wearing The Rocketeer’s too-small helmet on the top of his head as he dragged Cliff in front of The Master. There it’s revealed that the ship had just returned from Skull Island, the place where that giant gorilla that wrecked so much havoc in New York City was found a few years ago. The Master tells Cliff that the mysterious crates in the hold of the ship are filled with all manner of dangerous prehistoric creatures—dinosaurs set to run wild through modern day America. And then The Master drops his figurative bombshell on Cliff before literally dropping him into the mouth of a waiting and hungry Tyrannosaurus Rex—The Master intends to use The Rocketeer’s experimental technology to outfit his creatures with rocket packs!
It was so funny and over-the-top, and yet sinister and evil, and totally keeping within the tone of those old serials that I could help but both laugh and cheer.
How will The Rocketeer get out of this one? Tune in next month to find out!
I want a jet pack.