Review: The Rocketeer & The Spirit: Pulp Friction #1

This is one of the best character crossover books I’ve read all year. It’s not the best crossover, but it’s pretty damn good. Waid is at home in the Rocketeer universe and The Spirit fits into that world perfectly! Seriously, the two were made for each other and if someone had a lot of money and was smart they’d pull a Dynamite Comics style of pulp characters grab and create a fictional world with them. It’s like the DC Universe with each character having their own city, but instead it’s pulply classic characters with similar plot constructions. Great stuff even if you’re only a fan of one character or the other. The issue begins in Central City which is the home of the Spirit. Its 1941 and a city council is having a vote about public airwaves being controlled by a corporation/individual or remaining open to everyone (spoiler we lost that debate). One member Alderman Cunningham, is very against it and makes a strong argument against it, but ultimately loses the vote. He vows to take the issue to a higher power and make it known to the people.

The next day in California we find Betty posing for pictures at the beach when she discovers a dead Alderman Cunningham. Just to make a note, he’s traveled from one coast to the other overnight… and died along the way. Back in Central City Dolan can’t wrap his head around how his friend traveled that far and why he was killed. Obviously he involves the Spirit, but the two men are willing to let the locals handle it until Dolan’s daughter hears about it and plans a trip to Hollywood for all of them.

RocketeerSpirit01-pr-1This is where the confusion comes in as the trio land at Peevy’s airfield, but he only notices the Spirit and hears that they’re going to pay Betty a visit. He grabs Cliff and they take off to intercept them before they reach Betty.

I’m glad they got the “we’re enemies, now we’re friends” thing out-of-the-way in one issue and managed to at least make it friendly. In things like JLA/Avengers, they fight for several issues and then become friends at the end to stop the villain which is always stupid because they should be worn out from fighting each other. Here both characters are reasonably aggressive, but neither one is looking for blood by any means. Plus Dolan and Peevy’s past helps them patch things up quickly.

Waid does a great job of making each character true to each original creator’s vision. There are a lot of stories for each character both main and supporting, so anyone familiar with them is coming into this with a certain expectation and I think Waid delivers on that expectation. He also makes it friendly to new readers since there’s a possibility of readers only being familiar with one character or the other. If this was your first experience with them I can tell you that Waid delivers a true version of the characters. I’m interested in the mystery of the traveling dead man so I’ll definitely be here for the continuation of the series.

The art is fantastic, but that doesn’t mean that its Dave Steven’s Rocketeer with the Spirit spliced in or Will Eisner’s The Spirit with the Rocketeer spliced in to it. Rather it finds the mid-ground of both and manages to deliver something that truly feels like both worlds meeting. Paul Smith is wonderfully brilliant on this issue and I will be looking forward to what he brings to the next. Really there are too many great panels to single out since the entire issue is beautiful.

Even though I’m a fan of both characters, I’ve found that in the modern era they tend to get stale quickly. That is to say that no one creator is attached to them long enough to really do anything with them which is a shame. Waid has had a mini and a few shorts for The Rocketeer, but again it’s more of homage issues as there is no ongoing narrative for readers to follow. It’s a shame, but occasionally there are minis like this that remind you why the characters are so great. It was a nice treat to see The Spirit working again since DC has decide to sit on the character unable to find a home for him within their New 52 or Vertigo, but maybe this series will reignite interest and he can start back up at the latter. If you’re a fan of either character or you’re curious about both, and then grab this issue. It’s the perfect blending of worlds.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Paul Smith

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

Publisher: IDW Publishing & DC Comics

Price: $3.99

Release Date: 7/24/13