Edited by Jeff Conner and Tom Waltz

IDW Books


410pp/$19.99/August 2014

The Rocketeer Jet-Pack Adventures

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Dave Stevens introduced the world to the Rocketeer in 1982 when Cliff Secord discovered an experimental rocket pack in 1938. With the help of his friend, Peevy, Cliff figures out how to use the rocket pack to defeat the Nazis who are trying to steal it and an experimental airplane while he also tries to set things right with his pin-up girlfriend, Betty. The original comic was followed by a sequel, a film made in 1991, and several more comics following Stevens’ death. Now The Rocketeer Jet-Pack Adventures provides ten text-based stories of the Rocketeer ranging from 1939 through 1945.

The strongest stories are the ones that hew closest to the original idea of the Rocketeer fighting against the Nazis and his tumultuous relationship with Betty, highlighting her flirtatious ways and Cliff’s insecurities and jealousies. While all the stories are based on standard ideas from the pulps, the ones that veer furthest from the realistic, whether it is introducing a Moreau-like scientist in the Caribbean or a Lovecraftian horror in Hollywood, tend to feel out of place.

Each of the stories stand on their own, although they are organized in chronological order and a few of the later ones call back to Cliff’s adventures from earlier stories, whether it is a reference to his vacation to Catalina with Betty detailed in Yvonne Navarro’s “The Red, White & Grey” or his sojourn in Shangri-La in Don Webb’s “Nazis in Paradise.” The authors also include references to Cliff’s original adventures in the Dave Stevens books.

In many of the stories, Cliff fails to seal the deal. The number of villains who escape vowing vengeance against the Rocketeer (and many learn his “secret identity” is nearly as great as the number of stories in the book. While this may indicate plans for additional volumes detailing the adventures of the Rocketeer, it happens with such frequency that it leaves a sense that very few of the stories are actually finished and a vaguely disappointing feeling when the last page is read.

The authors clearly had fun with the characters and situations. Cliff, obviously appears in all of the stories, and Betty is also frequently depicted, not always consistently with the earlier stories or Stevens's original comic. Peevy rarely appears for very long and is mostly Cliff's off-stage mechanic. The depiction of him often seems to owe more to Alan Arkin's depiction in the film than to the comic and is more constant than the way Betty and Cliff are characterized. There are also several cameo appearances, ranging from Zane Grey to Hedy Lamarr to Groucho Marx (who also appears in the recent Rocketeer comic Hollywood Horror.

The Rocketeer Jet-Pack Adventures captures the feel of the pulps of the period and makes good use of the wonderful characters Stevens created. Cliff, and his alter-ego the Rocketeer, is most at home when flying a plane or using the rocket pack, but also around the world, in Burma, the American Southwest, or fighting Nazis in and around the Hollywood Hills. The varying depictions don't detract too much, and the reader is left wanting more of the original comics and the stories this book is made up of.

Yvonne Navarro The Red, The White & Grey
Don Webb Nazis in Paradise
Gregory Frost Farewell, My Rocketeer
Simon Kurt Unsworth Atoll of Terror
Cody Goodfellow Sky Pirates of Rangoon
Nancy Holder Rockets to Hell
Nancy A. Collins Codename: Ecstasy
Robert Hood Flying Death
Nicholas Kaufmann The Mask of the Pharoah
Lisa Morton The Rivet Gang

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