Call off the dogs, lay down your weapons, and turn that damn searchlight off! Your old buddy and pain in the ass Iann Robinson has found his new favorite series of 2012. Okay, well, it’s not a new series and, well, it’s only around four issues, but still, this first book had me gushing like I was a kid. What is this magical concoction? My friends allow me to introduce you to Rocketeer: Cargo Of Doom. Written by Mark Waid and gorgeously illustrated by Chris Samnee, this mini-series could unseat all the current horses running for my favorite title of the year.
Rocketeer: Cargo Of Doom works because it’s written exactly like the old serials of the 30s and 40s. Rocketeer was born in 1982 by Dave Stevens as an homage to the great Golden age characters. Since his inception, a number of people have taken a crack at the Rocketeer, with mixed results. Waid, as I’ve said before, gets it; he understands the history and rhythms of older comics and in Cargo Of Doom, he executes them perfectly.
Issue #1 starts with Sally, the teen mechanic niece of Peevy, another ace grease monkey who also helps the Rocketeer keep his jet pack working. Sally is attempting to get her plane past inspection but Mr. Feeney, the scumbag owner of the plane garage Rocketeer and Peevy work for, is trying to exchange a few kisses for that inspection certificate. Sally defends herself with an elbow, which knocks Feeney out the door and unleashes a parachute that gums up the propeller. Feeney manages to get back inside but the plane is now speeding towards the ground. Suddenly, The Rocketeer emerges and saves the day. It’s the kind of swashbuckling action that’s largely missing in modern comics.
From there, we get a lay of the characters. The ace pilot Cliff Secord, aka The Rocketeer, his right hand man Peevy, Sally the teenage mechanic who loves Cliff, and Betty, Cliff’s bratty and spoiled girlfriend. We also meet a dark and sinister presence named The Master. He looks like a lion tamer mixed with a magician and he’s bringing the Cargo Of Doom to America to destroy the Rocketeer.
Every beat from Waid is right on, from the '40s era dialog to the situations and even the evil villain, who is more sinister than twisted or sick. This is an adventure yarn that unfolds during a more innocent era in both history and comic books. With the pressure off to make things bigger and badder, Waid can focus on characters, and he’s allowed to keep the whole thing light and fun. Anybody looking for a break from the woefully overblown world of modern event series comics will find great solace in the excellent fun and simple adventure of Rocketeer.
Chris Samnee, who has been working with Waid on his current Daredevil run, is in his element here. I’ve always been a fan of Samnee’s throwback style and, in Rocketeer, it’s a thing of beauty to behold. First, Samnee panels the book like a Golden Age title. Blocks that sit a certain space apart with very little change in the formation. Then he adds his strong lines and heavy inks to the characters but uses thinner lines for the faces. This gives each character weight but keeps that rough sketch look of the era.
Samnee also uses shadow here to bring out the noir feel of the '40s. He captures the feel of the live action serials perfectly. His action has more movement to it than most Golden Age books, but that actually helps the excitement. I have to give a nod to Jordie Bellaire, who kills it with the colors. Rocketeer: Cargo Of Doom has some of my favorite art of the last year. Whether you love Golden Age books or not, pick up this latest incarnation of Rocketeer.
See you next time, action fans!!
(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)