REVIEW: ‘The Rocketeer: Great Race,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Rocketeer Great Race #1 - But Why Tho

The Rocketeer: Great Race #1 is a comic published by IDW. The story and art are by Stephen Mooney, colors by Len O’Grady, and letters by Shawn Lee. This story continues the adventures of the classic character the Rocketeer, created by Dave Stevens. Tired of being shot at by Nazis and flying about using his rocket, he quits. But his idea of leading a normal life is interrupted when a man brings him news of an air race across the Atlantic.

The plot and world of this comic have a very classical feel to it, keeping it true to the original tone of the Stewart comic. The pacing of this first issue is in reverse to what may be considered the norm. There is an opening fight scene that is fast-moving and intense, full of action and danger. And then it abruptly and explosively stops, the rest of the issue much more subdued and slow. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows world-building to flourish. Mooney takes his time with getting to the inciting incident of the comic, much of the book being peaceful as Cliff Secord goes civilian. But when this race becomes the focal point of the plot, the excitement builds again. Whilst there aren’t many surprises, the mystery and tension started is enough to maintain interest.

For those new to the world of The Rocketeer, this may actually be a great jumping-on point due to how the characters are written. The high-flying alter ego of The Rocketeer is briefly seen in the intro, but beyond that, it is just Cliff. There is, therefore, an opportunity to learn what his personality is like underneath the helmet. Away from the jetpack, Cliff has uncertainty and quite a lack of confidence. He is nervous about things that could kill him, spurred by a near-death experience. Like a racing driver shrinking after a crash, he begins questioning dangerous possibilities in a way he didn’t before. 

The dialogue is fantastic and the voice is natural for characters appearing in that time period. Cliff speaks like Jim Hammond or Steve Rogers or a character set in the late 30s, homaging characters like them and others in classic adventure comics. It is intensely explanatory and descriptive of every feeling or event, but it allows for real depth in the character development. Additionally, whilst Moo ney doesn’t explicitly say “this is my girlfriend” or “this is my tech guy” for every member of the supporting cast, there is enough information for them to figure that out on their own.

The art is awesome. Mooney’s art style is perfectly suited for this pre-war-based comic. There is clearly such a love for the costumes and uniforms of the characters. Betty and other women included in The Rocketeer: Great Race #1 are stunning and so are the glamorous outfits. What is especially great is that these glamour shots also homages to Stevens’ famous “pin-up” style illustrations.

It shows that Mooney is showing love to the original creator and the original creator’s own love of the medium. But the designs for the rest of the book are also fantastic. There is a superb mixture of line weights so they can either be thick enough for outlines of objects or small enough for specific details. The facial expressions are really emotive and there is really beautiful attention given to body language and posture. After quitting as the Rocketeer, Cliff starts slouching and dropping his shoulders, denoting his lack of confidence. 

The opening action provides a glimpse at the potential Mooney has for depicting more. The sense of movement is awesome and the excitement radiates off of the page. And this rendition of the Rocketeer costume is sensational, fuelling the argument that it may be the greatest comic costume of all time.

The colors are lovely. There is a muted nature to much of the comic, with browns, whites, and bronzes being utilized often inside the buildings and on characters’ costumes. But that makes it so much more eye-catching when something colorful appears. Whether it be a snazzy-looking plane or a door or an outfit, it draws attention. The lettering is dynamic and fun and it is really nice to see thought balloons again.

The Rocketeer: Great Race #1 is born out of love. Celebrating 40 years of the character, Mooney doesn’t just create a homage to Dave Stevens’ incredible character and work There is also a wonderful new story here. It provides a different take on Cliff, putting more emphasis on the man and not the rocket on his back. The art is gorgeous and together with the nostalgic dialogue, this comic has a warmth to it, leaving a smile on the face after reading it.

The Rocketeer: Great Race #1 is available where comics are sold.


The Rocketeer: Great Race #1
4.5

TL;DR

The Rocketeer: Great Race #1 is born out of love. Celebrating 40 years of the character, Mooney doesn’t just create a homage to Dave Stevens’ incredible character and work There is also a wonderful new story here. It provides a different take on Cliff, putting more emphasis on the man and not the rocket on his back. The art is gorgeous and together with the nostalgic dialogue, this comic has a warmth to it, leaving a smile on the face after reading it.