Review: The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction #1

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The Spirit, created by Will Eisner, and The Rocketeer, created by Dave Stevens, are two of the most beloved characters in the history of comics. Now, these two great pulp-inspired heroes meet for the very first time! A Central City Councilman disappears and is found dead in Los Angeles. Commissioner Dolan, along with Denny Colt (AKA The Spirit) and his daughter Ellen in tow, treks out to the City of Angels to investigate. Meanwhile, Cliff Secord (The Rocketeer) consoles his sweetheart Betty… who is traumatized after accidentally discovering the politician’s body!

pulp friction coverThe two biggest names in pulp comics are finally meeting each other. The Rocketeer/The Spirit: Pulp Friction #1 hits comic book stands today. The story is written by Mark Waid with art by the great Paul Smith. Jordie Bellaire handles colors and Tom B. Long provides lettering. So does Pulp Friction ignite something special, or is it all smoke?

The story opens in Central City where a councilman is making an impassioned case for the radio airwaves of Central City to stay open and free. Some members of the board are wanting to award exclusive license to some of their friends in private enterprise. The lone councilman standing up against government corruption promises to do everything he can to stop what’s happening. As you can guess, he’s found dead the very next page. The strangest thing is that he’s found nearly 3,000 miles away on the other side of the country. Betty is working on a photo shoot on the shoreline, and she finds our idealistic councilman washed up in the rocky shoreline. The Spirit and Dolan are chewing over the news back in Central City when Ellen comes barging in and decides they will all go to Hollywood to see the sights and have some fun…and figure out the case if they really have to. When the trio arrive at Chaplin Air Field, Peevy misunderstand The Spirit and company’s intentions and The Rocketeer/Spirit showdown kicks off. Can our heroes figure out they’re both working toward the same goal? Even if they can work together, will their gal pals cause them to kill each other anyway?

Waid writes a fantastic story. He absolutely killed on his Rocketeer miniseries, but he also does a good job of handling The Spirit and his cast of characters. There is the obligatory fight when the heroes meet, but Waid steers clear of cliché territory. With four issues, he gets a lot of the things out of the way early on so the final three issues are full-on action and story development. Paul Smith makes Waid’s scrip feel completely cinematic. This is the best Rocketter movie you’ll ever read. Smith makes things absolutely beautiful and set firmly in the 1940s. It looks and feels like an old school pulp book. There are a lot of “pulp” books out there, but very few actually pull of the look and feel of pulp. This one does that in spades. Bellaire’s colors once again show why she’s the best in the biz.

Bottom Line: Pulp Friction does a rare thing in team-up comics: each character gets a great story, it makes sense why they’re together, and each hero gets a pretty equal amount of time on the page. Waid balances both characters well and we start to see hints of why they may work well against one another. 5/5

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