Thank IDW for bringing back the greatness of Dave Stevens Rocketeer character for the 30th anniversary, as well as the people buying the comics in support. Because of the sales figures for Rocketeer Adventures Volume 1 and Rocketeer Adventures Volume 2 did very well, IDW decided to let comics guru Mark Waid write a full-length story arc on the adventures of Cliff Secord, which means unlike the Rocketeer Adventures were anthologies of the character being short stories, Waid gets to write the first 4-issue story arc on said character since Dave Stevens was alive and well. And oh boy, this is some great pulp action.
THE ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM is a simple premise which a large cargo ship docking into Los Angeles, 1940's, is carrying a mysterious haul for New York that...you guessed it: is a cargo of doom. All of a sudden, the main villain gets wind that the Rocketeer resides in LA, so he makes a plan to steal the rocket and use it for his evil schemes. It's up to the Rocketeer to stop this evil man's plot and find out the purpose of his mysterious cargo.
Mark Waid writes a perfect ode to the pulp comics, having action, horror, and even romance (what pulp comics doesn't have romance in it?) while keeping some level of newness about. And much like any pulp comics, the Rocketeer doesn't have continuity or any other baggage about like today's comics, so new and old readers can read this.
Waid writes this having a great sense of fun for the pulp genre with the characters reactions and subtle quips (who doesn't love a complex weird love triangle of Cliff, Betty, and a third lady?!), to the zany master plot from the villain (yes, it involves rockets and that doom-like cargo), and the horror and mystery of what's inside that cargo (I'll give you hint: remember King Kong? It's not a giant ape, but you'll see) all of which make up the proper ingredients for a truly great comic in the spirit of pulp genre that others comics today just don't have.
Proper kudos also has to go to artist Chris Samnee, who draws this in the true spirit of Pulp and Silver-Age designs. Samnee matches Waids wild imagination in the characters and yes, the craziness that happens with that horrible cargo. It reminds me of other Silver-Age artist enthusiast Darwyn Cooke, so expect the same level of design and care. As well as 30 pages of original layout artwork from all 4 issues and covers is a great extra set of bonuses.
Only complaints some might have is that this is short (only 4 issues worth). It's no biggie at all, but you wish Waid could of done more. And the other is the confusion in issue 3 is hard to follow, because things just happen out of the blue and some of those same questions never get answered. I think parts like these are meant to be that way, consider pulp comics did things like this where random things just happened and readers are supposed to not really care about those details. In that day and age, of course people never noticed the details, but in today's times, people might not get the reference and just confuse them (but hopefully not). And the added touches of blood and violence are not really needed for this comic, but they do match the horror and mystery aspect of the book.
Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's THE ROCKETEER: CARGO OF DOOM is truly one of best pulp comics out there (but how many pulp comics are out there?). If your looking for a guy and his rocket-pack doing a crazy adventure on a deadly cargo, then give this book a whirl. Or if your a Rocketeet fan, or even a new reader to try something different, then give this a shot as well. It all ends a classic age "duh-duh-duh!!" cliffhanger moment where maybe, just maybe...Mark Wait and Chris Samnee might give this series another spin. Until then, here's hoping more from the next Rocketeer story, Rocketeer: Hollywood Horror