Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer — nearly twenty years after its theatrical release — remains one of my all-time favorite comic book movies. It’s lighthearted fun, full of thrilling flying sequences, and the story of an everyman becoming an unrecognized international hero. This makes it a film I will drop everything to watch whenever it appears on a television screen. That said, I never read the late Dave Stevens pulp-inspired comics on which the film’s based on. It’s a shame, really, as the IDW-published The Rocketeer Adventures: Treasury Edition proves that I missed many a good Rocketeer comic.
The TPB (trade paperback) collects nine tales from Rocketeer Adventures and Rocketeer Adventures 2, comics that feature original tales from a range of comic talent including Kurt Busiek, Dave Stewart, Tom Taylor, John Cassidy, and many others.
The stories are more like vignettes, really — short tales, usually under 10 pages in length, which shed light on what makes Cliff Secord, the man beneath the mask, a hero.
John Cassaday’s “The Rocketeer” is, fittingly, the first story in the collection. Cliff Secord, our jetpack-wearing hero, attempts to rescue his girlfriend from mobsters who are apparently holding her ransom to safeguard a rocket. Secord rescues her in what is the most creative aerial rescue since Hikaru saved a falling Minmay in the original Macross — only to discover that he’s in a world of hurt when the pair touchdown. Though just a few pages long, “The Rocketeer” reveals the characters’ personalities and relationships. Cliff is the (occasionally not-so-bright) do-gooder who is completely smitten by Betty, a strong female character who is more than a mere damsel in distress.
“Dear Betty” is easily the best tale in this collection. The story, told from Betty’s point of view as she receives letters from Cliff during one of his war stints, highlights the stress and loneliness the women back in the states felt when their military men went off to fight the Axis forces. It’s remarkably honest and earnest, and manages to convey more true emotion than comics three times its length. Busiek, Kaluta, and Stewart weave a warm love tale that has an excellent payoff.
Cliff Secord is a hero, but “Work To Do” displays the not so glamorous side of heroism. Taylor, Wilson, and Stewart’s story serves as one of Treasury Edition‘s weightier pieces as Secord faces something more grim than a Nazi war machine — a dying soldier.
A compilation featuring many different creative teams and visions, naturally, has highs and lows. The three aforementioned stories are the collection’s crown jewels, but the other tales are worth a read, too, thanks to either solid plotting or characterization. That said, the very cartoony “A Dream of Flying,” is the worst of the bunch and is only redeemed (somewhat) when you realize who Secord meets on a farm.
All in all, The Rocketeer Adventures: Treasury Edition is a book that will please both newcomers and long-time fans. Cliff Secord is a relatable hero who takes his lumps nearly every story, which gives him an everyman quality. But he’s a genuinely good everyman who remains an interesting lead without a snarl, dubious history, blood-soaked hands, and gray areas.
I now want to read more of The Rocketeer‘s adventures.
You can buy The Rocketeer Adventures: Treasury Edition at Amazon.com for $35.00.