IDW’s The Rocketeer: The Great Race #1 Comic Review

Since his first appearance in 1982, Dave Stevens' Rocketeer has been the star of countless classic adventures and a major motion picture. Armed with his iconic helmet and a jetpack, pilot Cliff Secord has gone toe-to-toe with nazis, mad scientists and all manner of outlandish villains. Now, IDW is celebrating the hero's 40th anniversary with a new 4-part series written and drawn by Stephen Mooney. The Rocketeer: The Great Race #1 is a well-crafted first issue that celebrates Cliff's illustrious history.

When Cliff hears rumors of nazi spies lurking in the California woods, he grabs his rocket and leaps into action. The Rocketeer: The Great Race #1 begins when the aforementioned nazis prove to be tougher than he anticipated. They shoot him down and the hero barely escapes with his life. Much to his girlfriend Betty's delight, this close call is enough to convince Cliff that it's time to put his Rocketeering days behind him. But before Cliff can settle down to a life of leisure, a wealthy inventor makes him an offer he can't refuse, and Cliff enters a transatlantic race that will be more dangerous than he could ever imagine.

Mooney does an excellent job capturing the Rocketeer's voice. The dialogue is ham-fisted and goofy, but it feels natural in the context of the pulpy world Mooney has created. Much like Stevens' original Rocketeer, it is easy to imagine each character starring in their own old-timey radio drama. As over-the-top as some elements of The Rocketeer: The Great Race #1 are, Mooney still makes space to sincerely explore Cliff and Betty's relationship. Her concern for his safety and frustration with their unpredictable lives creates a sincere tension that makes it easy to empathize with both characters. By blending the ridiculous and the old-fashioned with grounded emotional drama, Mooney creates a story that delivers plenty of nostalgia while venturing into new territory.

Much like his writing, Mooney's artwork captures the excitement of the original Rocketeer comics while adding a new layer. Panel borders can't contain the excitement of The Rocketeer: The Great Race #1 as characters often leap out of each panel to create chaotic and dynamic pages. The bombastic nature of the character is reflected in almost every scene. Whether he is dodging bullets or talking to potential employers, Mooney draws Cliff with a sort of devil-may-care attitude that is downright infectious. Len O'Grady's colors are bright and vibrant, but he incorporates a wide array of subtle textures and shades to give this issue a modern look.

The Rocketeer: The Great Race #1 is a fun, action-packed celebration of the classic character. Mooney has a clear understanding of everything that makes Cliff Secord special. Longtime fans of the hero will be delighted by this faithful new representation, and new readers will enjoy the well-crafted adventure story that lays the foundation for a thrilling series.

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