‘Rocket Robinson and the Secret of the Saint:’ Advance Trade Paperback Review

Sean O’Neill is back with his second Rocket Robinson adventure (Check out my review of his first volume, Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh’s Fortune, here.), and I could not be happier! This Wednesday, you will be too when Rocket Robinson and the Secret of the Saint is released from Dark Horse Books.

Following a brief prologue, this volume picks up with our young protagonists, Rocket, Nuri, and Screech, in Paris, visiting the Louvre to see the famous Mona Lisa painting and later to watch Nuri’s uncle perform in a jazz club. In Paris for less than a day, the trio are suddenly sleuthing an art heist which reveals an elaborate effort to find the Knights Templar treasure that was lost in the early 14th century. Rocket, Nuri, and Screech run headlong into a number of dubious characters while trying to solve the mystery that has evaded treasure hunters over the centuries.

Reading like a YA Indiana Jones story that’s filled with non-stop action, O’Neill delivers a fantastic followup to his first Rocket Robinson adventure. He keeps his protagonists believable with the level of knowledge that they draw from, so that their deductive reasoning rings true, which is a major narrative component to this story, as well as the first volume. The new supporting characters flesh out the story well and give O’Neill room to create an engaging story that entertains and keeps readers’ attention. The time period – 1933 – and the Parisian locale are a perfect backdrop to weave in a well-known mystery (or myth) with the subtext of more mature themes, such as German ideologies (the Final Solution and their interest in secret societies). The ingenuity and varied interests that O’Neill endows Rocket and Nuri with make them positive role models, encouraging young readers to take an interest in less pursued hobbies, such as Morse code, crystal radio, art appreciation, and interest in history.

O’Neill successfully pulled double-duty as writer and illustrator. As in the first volume, his visual art style is reminiscent of Hergé (Tintin series) and Edgar P. Jacobs (Blake and Mortimer series) who both utilized the clean lines and lack of texture that are the epitome of ligne claire. It’s a style that works well with the bright color palette that highlights the action and adventure aspects while softening the danger and darker themes. Additionally, O’Neill conveys and carries the action from one panel to the next with great efficiency, creating the necessary tension and thrill of the adventure. The lettering and text sound effects are spot-on and, as a whole, the visuals are pleasing and fun.

Rocket Robinson and the Secret of the Saint is an excellent followup to the first volume, and while this sequel could be read independent of the first, it would be an error to do so. While hearkening back to the endearing visuals of Hergé and Jacobs, O’Neill creates an attractively clean and modern art style that will appeal to all readers. In addition, O’Neill is stellar storyteller, weaving in enticing mysteries and mythologies of old into entertaining tales for younger readers. Taken together, O’Neill is building a delightful ongoing series that is sure to attract and define a new group of devoted fans.   

Creative Team: Sean O’Neill (writer/illustrator), Shantel LaRocque (collection editor), Brett Israel (collection assistant editor), Cindy Cacerez-Sprague (collection designer), and Josie Christensen (digital art technician)
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
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