The Rocketeer is a classic. Dave Stevens’ original book so masterfully combines the glory of the pulp era and compiles it into one big love letter to the 30s and 40s. His art is beautiful, the story: fun and lighthearted yet still thrilling. There’s a lot to love, especially for fans of the era. This legacy was always going to be hard to imitate, while it is a noble idea for IDW to attempt a revival for the character The Rocketeer At War does more harm than good. A bland storyline, combined with cliched dialogue and inconsistent art, At War often finds itself living in the long shadow of the Stevens’ classic. Cliff Secord has finally been reunited with his Rocketeer getup, already overseas as a volunteer in the army he is now ready to fight the Axis head on. No longer is he just a grunt soldier on the frontlines but The Rocketeer! In theory this idea has a lot of potential, and in the right hands perhaps it could have been something amazing. After all, World War II is fertile soil for a pulp comic. Writer Marc Guggenheim has given us all of the essential elements: 1940s timeframe, charismatic hero, nazis building secret weapons… All of the tropes are here, and yet they just don’t fit together like they should. Part of the downfall of this comic for me was the dialogue. Guggenheim gives Peter Parker a run for his money on Secord’s one-liners, and it’s worse that he’s so cheery while gunning people down. Killing nazis has always been a part of pulp war stories, so it’s not necessarily out of place, but for some reason it put me at odds. This issue felt like a watered down version of the original, because it is. Reboot, revival, whatever you want to call it, it’s just not the same. And I can understand the argument “it’s not supposed to be the same”, but it is, at least in a way. There’s nothing different about the characters or the plot, it’s just a different story, so why not just try to make it a little bit more like the original and not run the risk of leaving a bad taste in readers’ mouths.
I kind of knew going into this that it might not be the most enjoyable read. The cover kind of said it all, with the characters limbs in odd proportions, I already knew I wasn’t going to agree with the art. I hate ripping people apart, but this is some of the most inconsistent art I’ve seen in awhile. The characters look different from one panel to the next, and the people just look..off. I don’t know how best to describe it, but just take a look inside an issue and you’ll see. The bottom line there is that Bullock’s work is not my taste, especially when I’m expecting Dave Stevens’ painterly retro style. It doesn’t even come close.
Guggenheim and Bullock can’t keep up with a classic, and try as they may it doesn’t hold a candle to the pulp glory that is The Rocketeer. Somehow feeling rushed and overly long at the same time, with sloppy artwork, and a weak story, this issue left me feeling disappointed in IDW and worried for the future of The Rocketeer series. Maybe The Rocketeer isn’t the right book for this creative team, but I hope in the future they find someone who is.
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The Rocketeer: At War #2 Writer: Marc Guggenheim Artist: Dave Bullock Publisher: IDW Publishing Price: $3.99 Release Date: 3/23/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital