The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom #1
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Chris Samnee and Jordi Bellaire
Lettering by Shawn Lee
Published by IDW Publishing
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom is a book that's so good, I wish they could clone Chris Samnee and have him draw a dozen other books, too. There's art, there's spectacle, and then there's art, that breath of humanity that gives real life to these pencil-and-ink sketches.
Pretty lofty words for a comic book about a scrappy jetpack-wearing punk of a pilot, huh? But art is exactly what The Rocketeer is, as IDW has put together a tremendously talented team to tell a story that's as influenced by everyday human experiences as it is seedy pulp narratives.
It's actually easy to forget that, aside from a fairly short beat early on, this book doesn't have much in the way of action. Not that that's a problem for Mark Waid — in fact, he doesn't even really need to make Cliff Secord his main character. By introducing Sally, a spunky teenage mechanic who pines for the clueless Secord, Waid manages to rope us in immediately. If you've ever been overlooked by a girl (or a boy), you know Sally's angst, and that adds a whole new dimension to the near-plane crashes or the mysterious villains lurking in the shadows.
But none of this would crackle like this without Chris Samnee. He adds so much believability to his characters, so much emotion, that Waid doesn't really have to do any heavy lifting in making us sympathize with them. We see it in their faces. You see how happy Sally is to hug Cliff. You see how morose Sally's uncle Peevy looks when he sees Cliff ignore his little girl.
To be honest, the lack of out-and-out action doesn't even matter, because Samnee has his characters doing something on every page, whether it's leaning against a table in a diner when they've got some great news, or curling up in disgust when a shady federal inspector makes a move on them. That's the kind of care and craft that few artists show these days, and the fact that Samnee can knock out these kinds of pages reliably demonstrates why he's one of the best artists in comics today.
The only downside to this comic is that for the uninitiated, it can take a little bit of time to piece together all of the relationships between Cliff and his supporting cast, with the spectacle of the Rocketeer's jetpack being put on the backburner for Sally's tribulations, as well as a B-story that ties into Cliff's heroic past. Samnee makes those pages in particular look gloomy and musty, but outside of atmosphere, the villains of the piece can be hard to follow.
Small turbulence aside, The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom is a spectacular, human introduction for what I hope will be a stellar storyline. Cliff Secord is not a character that people know as instinctively as, say, Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne, but Chris Samnee gives his so much vitality with every movement, that you feel like you've known him for years. Now that's the kind of hero you can get behind.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!