Red Rocket Comet – a fascinating little Brit comic, playing with ideas of heroes and villains in a clever way, putting twist upon twist into things. Flawed, certainly, but good enough and promising enough to bring to your attention.
I get many, many comics through my inbox. Too many to review, or even mention, here at Comicon.com. The best of those make it to the Best of British category, designed to cast a welcome light on some amazing Brit comics that we have over here in these isles. But, there are also levels of comics that sit under that Best of British criteria, ranging from works showing huge promise to throwaway, forgettable things that simply don’t pass muster. And when I find something that’s got promise, I’d like to think it’s worth passing it on to you. Which is where Red Rocket Comet comes in.
Now, initially, Red Rocket Comet was one of those that wasn’t going to get a review. The cover didn’t inspire – obvious photo ref and a head that seems to sit badly on that body – and once inside the overly photo-referenced black and white art from Grayham Puttock was something of a turn-off as well. If you’re going to photo ref your work, I have no problem with that up to a point, but when it’s too obvious, too copied, it doesn’t inspire. Here, you have Gary Sinise, Max Von Sydow, and rather bizarrely, Jean Alexander in full on Hilda Ogden mode from Coronation Street (Brit soap opera).
However, once I got a few pages into it, the annoyance of the overly-used photo ref was pushed aside thanks to Matt Garvey’s writing and a series of good twists that turned something fairly run of the mill into something much better.
The sleeping figure we see in the first page above is an old, washed-up superhero, the man we saw on the cover, and the ominous figure appearing on the end of his bed is, we assume, his nemesis. He certainly looks the part. But, turn the page and it’s time for the first neat twist in this tale, with a good line of dialogue making us wonder about the relationship between the two…
And that’s just the first of the twists here in Red Rocket Comet. Now, I know the whole idea of old heroes and what it must be like to lose the adrenalin rush of putting on the costume and risking your life thing has been done before, many times. But, this is not another comic running the Watchmen playbook. Red Rocket Comet, although it’s treading no new ground, is still doing a fine, fine job of switching things up sufficiently to keep me intrigued.
As these things do, the two old boys turn to reminiscing, and there we have another surprise treat, as the comic morphs into memory as a lush, full-colour, stylised series of pages from the second artist, Andy W Clift, looking every bit like something from the 50s/60s, complete with beige, aged pages. It’s a really good touch, the sharp contrast between b&w and colour and the two art styles adding a lot to the read.
Suddenly, we’re back with hero and villain, back in their four-colour prime, facing off, dancing the dance they both loved, before it all turned horribly sour.
After this colour interlude, we’re back in the dismal present, back to b&w, back to these two old enemies chatting, both of them broken by what they’ve done and what happened.
And here’s where Red Rocket Comet switches things up a second time and, suddenly, things take a far darker turn. The best bit about it is that it’s all done without any particular fanfare, there’s no sudden shocking moment here, just a very clever reveal that transforms the comic and alters everything you’ve seen so far.
So far, this would be a very nicely done tale for 2000AD, an extended Terror Tale or such like. But, the thing that elevates it further, the thing that made me, finally, decide that it was well worth sharing with you for the promise it shows, is that Garvey’s not done with twisting things round yet.
No, we go back once more, back to the full-colour moments of the past, to a pivotal event, where the hero makes one of those decisions that would destroy his future and turn him into the wreck we see at the start. The darkness of the present, the b&w misery we’ve seen so far, starts infecting the full-colour, tainting that four-colour nostalgia of the past, for reader and hero both. That’s when Red Rocket Comet really delivers the final, nasty twist.
Red Rocket Comet might not be the greatest comic I’ve read and yes, it’s a flawed work, but there’s a lot of fun to be had in the twists and turns Garvey puts into the story. It’s well worth a look, but more than that, worth keeping an eye on what Garvey has to say next.
Red Rocket Comet – written by Matt Garvey (mattgarvey.co.uk), black and white art by Grayham Puttock (grayhamputtockart.com), retro art by Andy W Clift (awclift.co.uk), colours by Matt Garvey, cover by Michael Rea.
Copies available at mattgarvey.bigcartel.com.