Review: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – The Western Publishing Years Volume One / Author: Paul S. Newman / Artist: Frank Bolle, Al McWilliams, Ray Bailey / Publisher: Hermes Press / Release Date: January 4th 2014
Nostalgia can be a tricky thing. Stuff that we loved back in the day can often wither when compared to our fondest memories. One prime example is the movie and subsequent TV series, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The original show never quite lived up to its promise of thrilling space adventure, partially due to budget limitation, and you would hope that the comic book adaptation, free from the burden of having to pay for expensive special effects, would go some way to resolving this.
Sadly, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Western Publishing Years suffers not from a lack of budget, but imagination. This is a collection of reprints from the spin-off comic book produced at the same time as the show, and the art is very much of its time; workmanlike and dull. It has none of the charm of other reprinted works (such as the Marvel Comics take on Star Wars), and the storytelling is simplistic and overwritten. It simply doesn’t stand the test of time, and was never meant to. The nostalgia caused by meeting Twiki, Buck and Wilma Deering again is quickly washed away by plodding dialogue and boring art.
The book collects three stories – an adaptation of the 1979 movie and a follow on story that ends abruptly, because for some reason they decided to add a story from the 1963 run of the Buck Rogers comic strip in at the end. Though it’s fun to see a more traditional take on the source material, it breaks the flow of the book. The strip is included because this is how the original print run of the comic books came out back in the day, but it does seem to be entirely uncalled for; all it serves to do is frustrate the reader further. It would have been better to include this bonus elsewhere, maybe in a future volume. More pointlessly, we get some photographs of memorabilia and a few movie posters. For all their faults, more comic strips would have been better as at least they’re of slight interest to the reader.
Those looking for Buck Rogers-style fun would be better served by checking out the 1932 reprints, or keeping an eye out for Howard Chaykin’s forthcoming new take on the series, as all Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: The Western Publishing Years Volume One will do is make you pine for better adaptations of this classic sci-fi hero.