Waiting For The Trade – Retro Review – Shockrockets: We Have Ignition

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Penciller: Stuart Immonen

Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger

Colourist: Jeromy Cox

Letterer: Richard Starkings & Jason Levine

Collects: Shockrockets #1-6

I’ve named this a Retro Review as Shockrockets is a 2000 series the collection of which was published in 2004, but thanks to South Gloucestershire Libraries I’ve just had the chance to enjoy it. Not wanting to limit things to current or new series I thought why not dive in.

Shockrockets is essentially a post-apocalyptic version of Thunderbirds. Following a great war with an alien race in which Earth was peppered with radiation hotspots the governments and corporations of the world poured their money into an international team piloting a variety of aircraft all with specialisations such as heavy lifting (Thunderbird 2…err I mean Avalanche), stealth, surveillance etc. They are the best of the best, to be a Shockrocket is the pinnacle of childhood ambition.

Our protagonist joins the team in what is a contentious fashion and we follow him as he beds into the team, eventually learning more that his team-mates about what it means to be a Shockrocket. The background is the post-war world, in which a military hero has gone rogue and is leading his armies against the “free” world.

The Thunderbirds analogy seems pretty strong for me but that doesn’t detract from the book, rather it feels like this is a “what if Thunderbirds” story. It’s far grittier than T-Birds but has a nice clean comic-book look to the art, Immonen’s ability to render the aircraft accurately from all angles is impressive. There’s a diversion in Issue 2 where they render the ships directly as CGI and it really doesn’t work, although the circumstances make it understandable and we’re soon back to the beautiful work of Immonen.

The characters follow the moulds you’d expect from a Top Gun meets Thunderbirds story. There’s the over-aggressive leader of the pack trainee, the gruff team members, the rough-edged but wise mechanic. But it’s all perfectly functional, you probably won’t be surprised too much as the story unfolds but not everything pleasurable is surprising.

If you like any of the sources I’ve mentioned then this is well worth a read. The collection includes all of the published images and some nice production sketches. It’s still in print so it shouldn’t be too hard to find and if they chose to write more I’d definitely be reading it.

Reviewer: Dave Williams

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