Review: The Rocketeer and The Spirit – Pulp Friction/ Author : Mark Waid / Artist: Paul Smith, J. Bone / Publisher: IDW / Release Date: March 25th
Pairing up The Rocketeer with The Spirit is one of those team-ups that seems obvious when you see it. Both are two-fisted pulp action heroes with hilarious sidekicks and a lady friend who has the habit of getting into all sorts of dangerous situations.
The plot is a nice mix of the sort of thing each hero has to deal with. Rocketeer stories tend to feature technology going awry, whereas The Spirit tends to deal with a lot of crime and conspiracy. The tale begins when the body of a technologist is found in LA, only a few short hours after witnesses swear that they saw him alive and well on the other side of the country. Both The Spirit and The Rocketeer find themselves investigating the case from different angles and, in true pulp fiction style, sparks fly when they cross paths.
The Rocketeer’s love interest, Betty (based on iconic fashion model Bettie Page) is, oddly enough, the one character that doesn’t mesh. In previous Rocketeer adventures Betty has been flirty, spunky, clever but easily duped. In this tale she seems like an entirely different person and the only reason for the change is to give the two heroes something to get angry and angsty about. Though this fits in well with the genre it does seem a little lazy. The two heroes also feel a little interchangeable at times, even though they couldn’t be more different, and you get the feeling that writer Mark Waid isn’t as familiar with The Spirit as he is with the other hero. However these are minor gripes in the context of the work as a whole. It’s filled with fun little moments, such as Cliff’s reaction to The Spirit’s secret origins and the mysterious power of television.
The art suits the book extremely well. The Rocketeer’s world is bright and loud, whereas The Spirit is slightly more muted and strange. Though we have two different artists with two distinctive styles, both Bone and Smith know exactly what era they need to draw their inspiration from and this graphic novel could fit in easily with classic books from the era. The Rocketeer and The Spirit: Pulp Friction is well paced, unchallenging and slightly silly, which is exactly how it should be.