Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: ROCKETEER Adventures #4


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

WRITERS: Dave Gibbons; Joe Pruett; John Arcudi
ARTISTS: Scott Hampton; Tony Harris; Brendan McCarthy
COLORS: Scott Hampton; JD Mettler; Jamie Grant
LETTERS: Shawn Lee
PIN-UPS: Ashley Wood
COVER: Alex Ross
ALTERNATE COVERS:  Dave Stevens (Cover B), Alex Ross (Cover RI – sketch); and Dave Stevens (B/W Incentive Edition)
32pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (August 2011)

Rocketeer created by Dave Stevens

Long live The Rocketeer!

Born in 1955, Dave Stevens was an illustrator, artist, and storyteller who worked on newspaper comic strips and as a storyboard artist on both live-action and animated films and also for television.  Many, like me, know Stevens for his comic book work.  While there was not much of it, what Stevens did produce was spectacular and beautiful.

His most famous comic book creation is The Rocketeer, a superhero Stevens first introduced in 1982.  The Rocketeer’s style and the mode of his adventures recall the Saturday matinee heroes of the 1930s and 1940s.  The Rocketeer’s exploits are mainly set in and around Los Angeles, beginning in 1938 and into the 1940s.  The Rocketeer even made it onto the big screen in a 1991 film from Walt Disney Pictures.

The Rocketeer is Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot who discovers an experimental jet pack (or rocket pack).  When he straps it on, Cliff can fly and becomes The Rocketeer.  Cliff’s friend, Peevy, an airplane mechanic, helps him maintain and modify the rocket pack.  Cliff’s girlfriend is the actress, Bettie, whom Stevens based on real life, 1950s pin-up and fetish model, Bettie Page.

Debuting in 2011, Rocketeer Adventures was an anthology series from IDW Publishing.  Edited by Scott Dunbier, Rocketeer Adventures featured Rocketeer short stories (about 7 to 8 pages in length) produced by some of the most popular, imaginative, and unique creators in comic books.  The series, which had a sequel, basically paid respect to Stevens (who died in 2008) and his most beloved creation.

Rocketeer Adventures #4 features three stories.  The first is “A Day at the Beach,” written by Dave Gibbons and drawn by Scott Hampton, which finds the Rocketeer taking on surfboard thieves.  In “Waterlogged,” written by Joe Pruett and drawn by Tony Harris, the Rocketeer battles a Japanese submarine.  “The Flight of the Aeronaut,” written by John Arcudi with art by Brendan McCarthy and Jamie Grant, finds Cliff battling Nazis who want Peevy’s plans to improve the Rocketeer’s rocket pack.

“A Day at the Beach” shows off Scott Hampton’s technique in illustrated narrative, which I still find eye-catching decades after I first saw his work.  The delicate watercolors (or watercolor-like colors) perfectly convey a sunny day at the beach.  “The Flight of the Aeronaut” is scary, and I wish it were longer.

In fact, since Rocketeer Adventures was first published, IDW Publishing has published three original miniseries starring the Rocketeer (one of them featuring Will Eisner’s The Spirit).  So here’s an idea for another miniseries, Mr. Dunbier, editor of all things Rocketeer, a follow-up to “The Flight of the Aeronaut.”

As a bonus, Rocketeer Adventures #4 features two pin-ups by artist Ashley Wood.  The second of the two, entitled “Heaven Bound,” captures the sense of wonder and hope that the Rocketeer embodies.  Long live the Rocketeer.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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