Rocketeer Adventures #2
IDW Publishing
Stories by Mark Waid, Darwyn Cooke and Lowell Francis
Art by Chris Weston, Darwyn Cooke, Dave Stewart, Geof Darrow and Gene Ha

Last month I reviewed the first of four Rocketeer Adventures comics from IDW. It’s their first foray into original comic creations featuring the Rocketeer, brainchild of the late, great, Dave Stevens. While the first issue was packed full of goodness, the second issue struggles a bit to keep the charm, despite still delivering an overall solid performance with some of comic’s best and brightest at the helm. As usual, there are three variant covers to choose from, including one featuring classic Dave Stevens art.

Issue #1 gave us a piece of what I suspected would be a multi-part story in Mike Allred’s “Home Again”, but issue #2 does not give us the next slice of the story. Perhaps I was wrong in assuming there would be more as lots of these tales are snippets, but maybe it’ll be contained in a later issue. We’re also only treated to one pin-up this time around, as opposed to the two we got last go around.

That’s not to say that IDW’s Rocketeer Adventures #2 is a bad little comic by any means, but I definitely think it’s not as good as the first. Reading some other reviews I found everyone raving about Darwyn Cooke’s homage to a serial in “Betty Saves The Day”. That’s quite odd to me as it’s easily the worst story in this book and probably the weakest of the entire series so far. The real gem is Lowell Francis’ “TKO”, as it’s exciting, fresh and shows off the first real high impact aerial battle of these books.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning with Mark Waid’s little humorous tale “It Ain’t The Fall That Kills Ya”, which pokes fun at comic books and the mentality of the era in which the Rocketeer is based. Waid does a fine job of capturing the spirit of the era and his Peevy characterization is great. I do feel he managed to struggle a bit with Cliff and Betty, however. Chris Weston’s artwork regardless of any story problems, is top notch all the way.

Cliff can at times be portrayed as a bit of a goof and that certainly seems to be where Waid is headed in this story. It’s a shame because there’s a thin line between Secord being played perfectly and just being a little too out there. Waid does manage to redeem himself for the most part, but I do wish Cliff was a tad more heroic and likable.

The story involves the Rocketeer about to go public. Before he can reveal himself, in hopes of gaining lucrative merchandising rights, he bumps into Betty who is now apparently a stripper. Cliff isn’t happy about this, nor do I blame him considering Betty is usually half naked but has never been shown to be flat out working in a place like this. Again, this is where Waid’s work falls down a bit. Betty seems like a tramp here and less of a sexy model, but I digress.

One of Betty’s peers is a hunky male model who basically tells Cliff he’s going to bang Betty and that there’s nothing Cliff can do about it, all the while managing to make Secord look like a jerk. As if that wasn’t enough, as the Rocketeer prepares to reveal himself, he has to save a Captain Marvel look-a-like named Aeroman who is doing a stunt to promote comic books. As it turns out, the model is also the guy playing Aeroman and Cliff ends up helping his foe and looking like a boob in the process.

Next up is Darwyn Cooke’s much ballyhooed story, which like the title implies, sees Betty save the Rocketeer. It’s a short story with Betty flying half naked in the Rocketeer garb, saving Cliff after he’s been shot. It’s not a terrible story by any means, but I didn’t find it that great either. There’s a little bit of a sexy vibe, but Cooke’s artwork seems more fitting of Disney Adventures Magazine comic strip, than the alluring Bettie Page homage that Dave Stevens was known for.

I hate to be so down on the story, but the art, the dialogue and the story itself are all below the quality of everything else in these first two Rocketeer Adventures books. The moment I read it I was sort of let down and it really surprised me that others liked it so much. I guess I didn’t get the memo that said I had to love it. The only parts I really enjoyed was the nods to the old time serials, but those just weren’t enough to raise this one from mediocre. Your mileage may vary.

We only get one pin-up this time around, but thankfully it’s the best one to date. Geof Darrow has a balls to the wall pin-up of the Rocketeer smack dab in the middle of a Nazi bombardment of planes. Bullets are flying and it’s a frenzy everywhere. This is the kind of Rocketeer artwork that inspires so much imagination within the character.

Finally we have Lowell Francis’ “TKO”, which is far and away the best mini-story in this comic. This is a fun little trip around the world of the Rocketeer and the unique presentation of the mid-air battle makes it one of the most satisfying Rocketeer stories to date. It details an in air battle between the Rocketeer and another man with a rocket pack. The hook is that there’s almost no dialogue until the end. The little narration we get is in the form of a radio broadcast of a boxing match. The catch being that what’s going on in the boxing bout, matches up with the battle in the skies.

As usual, we learn very little about how this story got started, but the ending is gratifying enough to make you feel rewarded anyway. I was reminded a bit of the classic GI Joe Silent Interlude, which might sound strange, but that’s the vibe I got despite the presence of narration and dialogue. It’s tough to pull off a story that’s mostly action and still make it entertaining, but Francis has done it in spades here and Gene Ha’s artwork carries it right to the finish.

Overall IDW’s Rocketeer Adventures continues to deliver. Issue #2 isn’t as strong as the first, but it’s still a frantic and fun trip into the retro world of the Rocketeer and comics in general. It’s definitely worth a pick up if you like comics that don’t bog you down with a backlog of retcons and baggage. I can’t wait to read the next issue and I just hope that this leads to more Rocketeer stuff from IDW.

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