Review: Rocketeer Adventures #4

Dave Stevens' signature creation lives on - and might he get an ongoing story soon instead of just a series of vignettes?

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Rocketeer Adventures #4

Last week, it was revealed that Boom! Studios is going to have new writers and artists take on the late Charles Shulz's beloved Peanuts gang, and I felt like that was tremendous mistake.  However, IDW is four issues into letting other artists and writers take their stabs at short new Rocketeer stories based on the late Dave Stevens' creation, and I'm fine with that… and that forces me to analyze just why that is.

Having been a lifelong fan of Peanuts and having just finished reading IDW's collection of Stevens' Rocketeer works in The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures, it comes down to the notion that it's one of those subjective art things, but also what the finished products were really all about.  Peanuts was a hugely personal creation from Schulz which allowed him to voice a great deal of profundity over the decades he was creating it, and he worked on it from start to finish.  Stevens worked on The Rocketeer from start to finish as well, but not only did he have co-writers and art assistants, but honestly… it doesn't really feel like it had a finish.  It may be how he intended it, but Stevens' complete works seems to end a chapter too early, which is understandable, considering his tragically early death from hairy cell leukemia.  That sad fact makes one really root for his signature character of Cliff Secord to continue to fly high – and Alex Ross would seem to agree, as in the cover image above, he's given Secord a significant resemblance to Stevens.

Truth be told, The Rocketeer isn't a quietly emotional deconstruction of childhood and depression, either – it's a slam-bang action adventure that fits right in alongside all these great comic book characters whose legacies have far outdistanced their creators, and given that milieu, it's no wonder people are climbing on board Rocketeer Adventures to chime in with their takes on Stevens' excitable hero.  So far, though, it's just been a handful of vignettes that could fit in anywhere in the lives of Cliff and his love/jealousy relationship with his best gal and knockout Betty.  However, in #4, we get three short stories, one of which could really be setting the stage for a new Rocketeer serialized story, and I'm hoping that's what we wind up getting.

The first story is from renowned Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, who's scripting this time for art by Scott Hampton, and it's a fun romp about a day at the beach (anything to get Betty into something saucy, as she's modeled on Bettie Page and for some reason it feels just fine to always find ways to give her some pin-up girl snazz) which turns into a chase against some rotten eggs who stole a surfboard/artifact from a nice Hawaiian guy named Duke.  Hampton's watercolor-ish style leaves a bit to be desired, but it's a good time nonetheless.

The second kooky tale comes from Joe Pruett with art from Tony Harris, and it shows us that the jet pack still works even underwater, as it brings into the impending war-time era of 1940 and pits Our Man Cliff against an enemy Japanese submarine, much to Betty's chagrin.  Harris' work is more like it, or at least closer to the Stevens style that clicks so well for the Rocketeer once he gets that helmet on, as he turns in the best work of the bunch. Pruett's story makes for a great segue into the third chapter – a crackerjack John Arcudi tale that actually gives our hero a flying archenemy called the Aeronaut – and she's a knockout Nazi spy-type dame!  Holy crow!  Brendan McCarthy's Aeronaut design is pretty neat, too, and it makes us want another go-round between these two. 

Bottom line is that these characters are fun and come from a great era that we never get tired of exploring, especially in comics.  Bringing the Rocketeer ahead into the 1940s and the World War II era is just aces, and here's hoping IDW gets the moxie to keep this show on the road.