Thursday, February 6, 2014

I Reads You Review: THE ROCKETEER/THE SPIRIT: Pulp Friction #4

IDW PUBLISHING with DC Entertainment – @IDWPublishing and @DCComics

WRITER:  Mark Waid
ART: J Bone
COLORS: Rom Fajardo
LETTERS: Tom B. Long
EDITOR: Scott Dunbier
SUBSCRIPTION VARIANT COVER: Chris Samnee with Jordie Bellaire
28pp, Color, $3.99 U.S. (December 2013)

Two classic characters unite in the four-issue comic book miniseries, The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction.  The Rocketeer is a modern-day comic book character whose adventures are set in the era known as the “Golden Age” of comics.  The Spirit is a comic book character that actually appeared in that Golden Age.

Published by IDW Publishing (in association with DC Comics), The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction is written by Mark Waid and drawn by Paul Smith (#1), Loston Wallace (#2), and J Bone (#3 and #4).  Pulp Friction unites the two heroes, as they try to solve a peculiar murder case.

First appearing in the 1980s, The Rocketeer was created by artist and illustrator, Dave Stevens (who died in March of 2008).  Stunt pilot Cliff Secord discovers a mysterious jet pack, which he straps to his back.  Adding a helmet, Secord becomes “The Rocketeer,” and begins a series of adventures set mainly in and around Los Angeles and beginning in the year 1938.

The Spirit was created by legendary cartoonist Will Eisner (who died in January 2005) and first appeared on June 2, 1940 in a 16-page, Sunday newspaper supplement (or insert) called “the Spirit section.”  Once known as Detective Denny Colt (believed by some to be dead), The Spirit is a masked vigilante who fights crime in Central City.

After the corpse of Alderman Tommy Cunningham, a Central City politician, is found in Los Angeles, The Spirit travels to LA. to investigate, as it is physically impossible for Cunningham to have been in the city when he was.  Meanwhile, longtime Spirit nemesis, The Octopus, joins Hollywood “producer,” Benedict Trask, in a plot to use the new medium of television to launch a worldwide criminal enterprise

The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction #4 opens in Central City.  The Spirit finds himself imperiled by Cliff’s girlfriend and actress, Betty, who is under the thrall of the Octopus.  Trask, feeling assured of victory, prepares to “fire a bullet that will draw blood from the world.”  The Rocketeer and The Spirit have been at odds of late.  Can they come together in time to save the world?  They can with the help of a very special leader.

The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction #4 is the best issue of what has been an entertaining series and a welcomed union of two special comic book characters.  Comic books like Pulp Friction remind me of the fun I had reading comic books as a child, flipping pages as fast as I could read them.  Sometimes, I had to go back and reread a comic (several times) because my rapid reading was causing me to miss things.

In this final issue, writer Mark Waid brings everything together:  all the themes, conflicts, personality clashes, and subplots.  Waid cleverly constructs a scene that explains why The Spirit and The Rocketeer might clash that makes perfect sense in the context of the story that Waid is telling.  Also, the surprise way in which he turns a famous historical figure into a kind of action hero makes me glad that I read this series.  And there are many reasons to read this comic book.

Although he did not draw the opening chapters, J Bone made Pulp Friction his own.  His art has an old-timey quality that captures the… ahem… spirit of Will Eisner’s art in terms of mood, graphic design, and pacing, which is appropriate here.  The Central City side of this story arc should resemble classic Eisner, as the L.A. side of the story recalls classic Dave Stevens Rocketeer.  When it comes to comic books, this is the good stuff.

Once again:  more Mark Waid Rocketeer, please, Mr. Dunbier.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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