The Rocketeer & The Spirit: Pulp Friction #1 Review

Add the Phantom to the mix and we'd have a Menage Trois of Uber Noir Vigilante Pulp Action!
Add the Phantom to the mix and we’d have a Menage Trois of Uber Noir Vigilante Pulp Action!

The Rocketeer & The Spirit: Pulp Friction #1

Written by Mark Waid

Art by Paul Smith

Colors by Jordie Bellaire

Letters by Tom B. Long

Review by Joey Braccino

The Rocketeer has been flying high for IDW Publishing. Since releasing a gaggle of archival collections and mini-series over the last year and a half, IDW has capitalized on the “old school” trend currently working its way through one corner of the comics zeitgeist. This week, current comics golden boy Mark Waid returns to the Rocketeer after last Fall’s super successful Cargo of Doom mini-series for Pulp Friction with artist Paul Smith. IDW has dusted off industry legend Will Eisner’s pop culture cornerstone, The Spirit, for a super pulpy noir team-up for the ages!!!

Just how does Mark Waid bring a Golden Age masked vigilante like The Spirit together with a Post-Modernist homage to matinee swashbucklers like the Rocketeer? Why, a dead body of course!!! When an outspoken alderman from Central City (the Spirit’s hometown, naturally) washes up on the rocky beaches not far from the Hollywood haunt of our technologically-advanced rocket-man, the two vigilantes are set on a crash-course that only the four-colored adventure comics could capture! Of course, hilarity ensues as The Spirit and the Rocketeer engage in some classic heroic misunderstanding fisticuffs.

Mark Waid has spent the better part of the last two years taking the Marvel world by storm with his inventive relaunches of Daredevil and Indestructible Hulk, but even those two series have some of the same “old fashioned” elements of swashbuckling action and down-home heroics that characters like The Spirit and The Rocketeer embody. Waid’s grasp of the vintage colloquialisms and characterization makes for a story that feels genuinely classic rather than caricatured. Because he’s Mark Waid, though, he flexes his uncanny storytelling ability to layer a relevant, prescient undertone regarding corporations and consumerism—this time centered on the burgeoning technology of Television!

While Paul Smith’s naturalistic aesthetic doesn’t necessarily match the pulpy, Golden Age-inspired lines of former Rocketeer mini-series artists Chris Samnee and J Bone, it is reminiscent of the Romantic realism of early comics. In many ways, Smith’s fine linework and intense, emotional noir are throwbacks to Eisner’s own work on The Spirit back in the ‘40s. Smith’s work makes for an engaging visual experience rarely seen in today’s more stylized artistic market. Jordie Bellaire has done colors on most of the Rocketeer work coming out of IDW, so in that sense we have a relatively consistent, vibrant thread running through the comics.


Check it out! IDW has been recruiting the best of the best to spin new Rocketeer stories, and Mark Waid, Paul Smith, and Jordie Bellaire definitely fall into that category. In addition to pulling in great talent for the book, IDW has recruited The Spirit into the Rocketeer’s universe, making for a promising and exciting new yarn featuring two of comicdom’s (and pop culture’s) most famous throwback characters.

Joey Braccino took his BA in English and turned it into an Ed.M. in English Education. Currently, he brings comics back in a big way all day every day to the classroom. In addition to proselytizing the good word of comics to this nation’s under-aged…

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