At this point you’ve probably heard of a little book at Marvel called Daredevil, written by Mark Waid with art by Chris Samnee. Month in and month out, the duo have been taking a character that had been drowning in several years’ worth of dark, brooding melodrama and, against all odds, made him synonymous with a word wholly unfamiliar to Daredevil comics; fun. So when I heard Mark Waid and Chris Samnee had collaborated on a new project, IDW’s “The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom”, I knew I didn’t have to be a rocket-scientist to figure out it would be a blast (nailed it).
One of the key qualities about this series is its accessibility. You don’t need to concern yourself with years of comic book continuity to understand the life of the protagonist, Cliff Secord. The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom offers all of the essentials (Cliff’s a pilot, has a supporting cast of friends, found a rocket, fights ne’er-do-wells) and then you’re immediately propelled headfirst into this new tale.
While enjoyment can be found without knowledge of the original tales by series creator Dave Stevens, Rocketeer: C.O.D. has gone a long way to become a convincing spiritual successor to his work. The story and art both work in unison to deliver that same pulp-like quality that the Rocketeer universe is known for. All the elements of the genre are there, whether Cliff is dealing with the on-again-off-again affections of his pin-up model girlfriend, his career as a hero interfering with his personal life, or even battling a villain atop a moving plane. And to further cement it as a perfect homage to the zany pulp-genre, the villain’s master plan is to strap rockets to the backs of dinosaurs and let them loose upon Manhattan. That’s his entire plan. He has crates full of dinosaurs (the titular doom bringing cargo) and, totally serious, wants to strap cutting-edge 1940’s rocket packs to them so they can fly around Manhattan causing mass hysteria. It seriously wins so hard.
Issue #3 carries with it a tremendous amount of forward momentum and does little to waste it. Right before we see just how horribly wrong containing a large group of dinosaurs on a freighter can go (you know, that old tale) The Rocketeer and the villain have an intriguing back-and-forth that really rings true to Cliff as a character. The antagonist accuses Cliff of being among a group of “self-styled ‘heroes.’ Stuffed too full of bogus self-regarding individualism to ever be of use to anyone, to any cause.” It’s hard to disagree with him, as one of the interesting draws to The Rocketeer as a hero is just how flawed a man he really is. His overall sense of righteousness is slightly tarnished by his occasional arrogance and, at times, selfishness, so I’ll be interested to see if Cliff can grow to do greater things with his power and to challenge those accusations.
I did find the handling of one character arc somewhat surprising as I felt it ended way too abruptly, but as it stands I’m willing to peg it as going to show just how much Mark Waid can do with one character in a short amount of time. This character’s departure also brings with it a new weapon to The Rocketeer’s arsenal that may change his future power set pretty drastically and make for some interesting encounters.
Chris Samnee is at the top of his game with this issue and his facial work in particular is very impressive. His portrayal of Cliff flawlessly allows to reader to empathize whether his demeanor is ranging from aghast, surprised, or even devilishly coy. Each and every panel Samnee draws is worth devoting some time to and allows the reader total immersion into Waid’s tale. Keep an eye on his facial work with the townsfolk near the end of the book; there’s a laugh-out-loud moment completely on par with the dinosaur jet-packs from the previous issue.
The Rocketeer: C.O.D. has that rare quality of completely justifying all that came before it while invoking genuine anticipation for what comes next. There’s really no other way to say it; if you’re not reading The Rocketeer right now, you’re doing comics wrong.