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‘The Rocketeer & The Spirit: Pulp Friction #1:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Combining two of pulp’s greatest heroes is nothing new, but Mark Waid and Paul Smith’s The Rocketeer & The Spirit: Pulp Friction pulls it off with such gusto. This creative team has such obvious love for these characters that you can’t help but think this is the best idea ever, and the first time it has been done, and for these two characters, both are true.  This first issue, part of a four-issue miniseries, is an absolute blast.  Waid and Smith nail the dialogue and art of each hero’s world so well, and then blend them so perfectly, almost creating a new universe for them to exist in, but one that still feels familiar and friendly.

Paul Smith’s art evokes the style and feel of both The Rocketeer and The Spirit, so much so that I found myself flipping back and forth between the pages in The Spirit’s home of Central City, a gloomy New York-esque environment, and those in The Rocketeer’s Los Angeles, where most of the story takes place.  Both worlds have their own unique look, as do the characters that inhabit them.  The Spirit, created by Will Eisner, has a rough feel, with thick lines and detailed faces, full of wrinkles and eye crinkles, kind of a pulpy realism.  On the other hand, The Rocketeer, created by Dave Stevens, has a smooth, crisp look to it, just like the carefree Los Angeles where it is set, and it relates a kind of flowing elegance. These styles make sense to me, since one, they were created by two different individuals, and two, the styles represent the way their respective heroes operate.  The Rocketeer is often found swooping and flying through the sky, leaving a flaming trail of smoke behind him, while The Spirit is down on the ground, or on the rooftops, engaging in close combat fisticuffs.  It is gritty meets glamorous (to a point), and Smith pulls it off beautifully.  Even when The Spirit, Commissioner Dolan, and his daughter Ellen enter the world of The Rocketeer’s Los Angeles, they retain Eisner’s unique character designs and art style without looking any more out of place than the characters actually feel.  The whole book pops with great colors from Jordie Bellaire, who seems to be coloring everything these days, and for good reason.  There is never a boring panel, and the colors help set the scenes and add to the action, working in tandem with the writing and art to build a strong, fast-paced, and entertaining story.

I’m not going to talk about the story here, because I don’t want to spoil the fun I had of this adventure rocketing off, and me hanging on, whooping and laughing all the while, as it climbed higher and higher.  That is how wonderful this team-up made me feel.  Both The Spirit and The Rocketeer are go-get-‘em guys, so as the cover and the title relay, there is bound to be some friction between two such headstrong heroes.  Also, I just want to mention, the spectacular cover does not disappoint, because while it is simply fantastic in its own right, it does come from the story, which is set in 1941, and involves a murder mystery.  And, truly, that is all I will say regarding the story.  Honest.  Waid’s dialogue is a treat, capturing that verbose pulp style, with a flair and panache that would make the heroes’ creators proud.  This makes sense, since Waid just finished writing The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom miniseries for IDW.  There is plenty of humor and action here, and the story gets rolling right out of the gate, as do the ladies in both of the heroes' lives.  We’re given a stupendous action set piece about halfway through the issue, and it is a rollicking good time, pure and simple, and I can only imagine this is just a taste of what Waid and Smith have in store, as well as just a glimpse of the complex working relationship between The Rocketeer and The Spirit.

The Rocketeer & The Spirit: Pulp Friction is being published by IDW, who has found success with bringing in top-notch writers and artists to tell new Rocketeer adventures.  Likewise, The Spirit not too long ago got the star treatment from writer and artist Darwyn Cooke.  Reading Pulp Friction makes me want to run, or fly, out and gather up all these new iterations, as well as the original stories, and just fully immerse myself in the exploits of these two grand heroes, and that is high praise for Eisner, Stevens, Waid, and Smith.  These characters have longevity, and are as fun and exciting as anything else you will find in your local comic shop, so if you want some pulp with your comics, and a whole lot of action and comedy, than pick up Pulp Friction and jump headfirst into the adventure.