Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction Review (Mark Waid, Paul Smith)

Set in 1941, a Central City councilman's corpse appears on the West coast mere hours after he was last sighted on the East! How could that be possible when a cross-country 1940s plane ride takes 20 hours? The Spirit heads out West to find answers and encounters California’s own colourful character, The Rocketeer. The two heroes team up to uncover the dastardly secrets of… television! 

Mark Waid’s written more than a few great books in his time – The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction is definitely not one of them! The story starts off with a promising murder mystery and descends into a near-static Archie-facsimile as The Spirit’s girl, Ellen, makes kissy faces at The Rocketeer, whose girlfriend, Betty, does the same to The Spirit. That's why these two are fighting. Fascinating. On an unrelated note, Waid is writing Archie these days… 

Corny romance aside, the corny villains’ corny plan to take over the world, make money, powah, whatever, becomes a garbled mess of crap as Waid loses control of whatever he was going for long before the third act. Uh, quick, it’s the ‘40s, throw in some Nazis for our heroes to punch! Etc. I know it’s a pulp homage so it’s meant to have all that nonsense but can’t it be interesting and fun to read at least? 

Joining Waid are a number of different artists for some reason. Paul Smith draws the first issue beautifully, emphasising the pulpy angle with exploitative images of Betty (a model) as she poses provocatively in skimpy clothing. Loston Wallace draws the second issue which is noticeably less polished than Smith’s issue but still decent, and then J Bone draws the remaining two issues in a vastly different, heavily cartoonish style – think a less accomplished Darwyn Cooke. 

True to the pulps, this comic is certainly low quality literature but nowhere near as compelling in its attempts at telling a sensational story as Waid must’ve been aiming for. A boring team-up comic that’s four issues long and feels at least twice that, The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction is definitely not worth bothering with whether you’re a fan of the writer, these characters, or the pulp genre.

The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction

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