Summary: Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer was an instant hit the moment it hit the spinner rack in the earl 1980s. Stevens’ lush and distinctive artwork and fun, action-driven story was inspired by the adventure pulp novels of the era The Rocketeer was set in. Stevens produced only two Rocketeer graphic novels – collected to much acclaim by IDW – and his life was tragically cut short when he succumbed to Hairy Cell Leukemia. Now, with the full cooperation of the Stevens estate, IDW is pleased to present new interpretations of The Rocketeer by some of today’s finest talents. So, pull up a chair, sit down a while, and discover The Rocketeer all over again!
Rocketeer Adventures, vol. 1, by various authors and artists 7.0
‘Rocketeer Adventures’ was a comic book series that was first published in 2011 and which was based on Dave Stevens’ original Rocketeer strips. For these new adventures, various authors and artists collaborated on a series of short stories, with most of the vignettes being eight pages long.
The first four issues were collected together in this volume by IDW. The cast includes Kurt Busiek, John Cassaday, Darwyn Cooke, Mike Mignola, Alex Ross, Mark Waid, and Laura Martin (who was chosen by Stevens to colour his work), amongst many others. And, of course, Stevens himself.
I love the idea of getting all these industry legends to take up the mantle and essentially doing a tribute to Stevens’ iconic creation. However, I felt that the authors tried too hard to write up a full story or concept in too little space – and it frequently feels crammed or stumbles.
Without a doubt, my favourite is a story by Joe R. Lansdale called “Heaven’s Devils”, which is mostly text with some art by Bruce Timm. It looked more like a period novella and having all that space to flesh out his text, Lansdale was able to give us a more whole and engaging adventure.
Another that I quite liked was “Dear Betty”, which takes place during the Second World War and which spends each page focusing on a different day in Betty’s life while Cliff is off to fight. Each page is highlighted by entries of the latest letter that he’s written to her.
What I enjoyed most about it was seeing it from her perspective, as he’s largely absent except in letters. But I also liked that it gives a sense of what life might have been like for many young women during the war. I just didn’t find the ending credible, romantic though it may be.
The most disappointing one for me was Darwyn Cooke’s – not because it’s the worst, but because I’m holding him to a higher standard due to his impressive ‘Richard Stark’s Parker‘ books. The art was decent but some of the action was unlikely, with Cliff taking hits that should kill a man.
On the flipside, it transformed Betty into the heroine (even wearing the Rocketeer garb!), which was terrific, and I really enjoyed how he opened it up like a serial from that period, with a black and white recap of what took place in the “last adventure”. That was a lot of fun to read.
The best part of the book, overall, though, is Alex Ross’ various renditions of Rocketeer, which were used as the covers of the individual issues and are reprinted here. He gives the character a classic and epic quality that makes him seem larger than life, more exciting than warranted.
At least, in my estimation.
For me, Rocketeer is not a hugely compelling character, and the period doesn’t engage me as much as it does some; it doesn’t express some sort of Golden Age for me. So the mixed quality of these stories left me wanting. I think that something thrilling could be done with these characters, though.
I just didn’t find it here.