The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures
Written & Illustrated by Dave Stevens
Colored by Laura Martin
Lettered by Carrie Spiegle
Art assists by Jamie Hernandez, Arthur Adams, Geof Darrow, Gary Gianni, Michael Kaluta, Stan Manoukian, Sandy Plunkett & Vince Roucher
Script assist by Danny Bilson & Paul DeMeo
Original covers painted by Dave Dorman & Paul Chadwick
Published by IDW
Finally collected into a single hardcover by IDW, colored by Laura Martin, Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures gives readers all of Stevens’ pulp-inspired adventures in one sitting. Styled after the movie serials of yore, The Rocketeer tells of young pilot Cliff Secord, who recovers an experimental jetpack and finds himself caught up several adventures.
The Complete Adventures includes two separate storylines, though the lead narrative does set up the premise of the second. Cliff’s discovery of the jetpack leads to his involvement with U.S. military forces and Nazi spies initially, then he battles against an ogrous murderer bent on killing everyone from Cliff’s days with a traveling carnival. Meanwhile, he’s constantly trying to prove his worth to his girlfriend Betty.
Each story has its charms, though ultimately both are thin on plot and character development. Cliff comes through as likably lunkheaded, and the supporting cast are well-designed, enjoyable character types. The meager narratives don’t require much attention, however. The second story, in particular, hinges on fairly tepid revenge plot.
That said, Stevens is paying tribute to the adventures serials of the 1930s and 40s, so he’s not trying to reinvent the dramatic wheel. He’s also working the style classic adventure and pulp cover illustrators of the same era, and Stevens’ penwork excels in this regard. The art deco designs (the galleries of cover from the original comic book stories are jaw-dropping), detailed good-girl pin-ups of Cliff’s girl Betty (drawn, consciously, to resemble her namesake, 50s model Bettie Page), classically pulpy characters, and dynamic action sequences – it all creates a powerful visual experience that buoys the book up even when the story doesn’t fully fulfill expectations.
The new hardcover edition from IDW showcases the work beautifully, with sturdy covers, a bound-in ribbon bookmark, and slick paper that allow the illustrations to pop off each page. Additionally, the lush, new coloring by Laura Martin adds the seductiveness of Betty and the eye-popping action of The Rocketeer’s aerial exploits.
The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures stands out as a beautifully designed and illustrated package, and if the stories themselves aren’t the best you’ll ever read, you’ll find few comics that look better or offer breezier, more upbeat entertainment.