“Buck Rogers” #1 begins with Buck piloting an experimental craft christened “New Challenger” and ends with Buck being shot at in a surprising way. What happens in between is an issue filled with action and mystery. The mystery extends beyond the pages of this issue and involves the reader. Beatty has set this book up with very little reveal at all. The #0 issue offered a month back certainly offered more clues as to what was really going on.
Here are the highlights though: Buck Rogers develops an experimental engine with a friend. The government wants in on it, in the ensuing melee, Buck winds up somewhere (and most likely somewhen) unfamiliar. Not only has he crashed the experimental craft he was flying, but he is staring at a potential cave-in when he is rescued by a woman dressed in a black jumpsuit. The clues given indicate his rescuer might just be Wilma Deering.
Beatty gives lots of hints and clues, as well as some winks and nods to readers familiar with previous incarnations of the “Buck Rogers” legend. One such example occurs when Wilma’s battery indicator emits a “biddibiddibiddi” noise, crafted as an obvious tribute to the 1980s television interpretation.
Carlos Rafael delivers a magnificent set of visuals to accompany the story for this first issue from Dynamite Entertainment. Rafael takes the fantastic imagery of yesteryear (with the ray guns that look like a modified bike horn) and blends in some modern (and post-modern) sensibilities. There’s no reason for the futuristic costumes to be ornate or garish just because they can be, so Rafael decides to make them functional and clean. This look is accentuated by the strong palette of Carlos Lopez, who manages to make the black tones on the printed page achieve a richer, deeper black beyond 100% K. The illuminated discs on Wilma’s suit make for a stunning design against the onyx bodysuit.
The departure in visuals from the “traditional” interpretation of Buck Rogers and his world helps bring the legend of Buck Rogers forward. This interpretation of Buck Rogers is not the same your father or grandfather is familiar with, but there are elements of commonality that help make the story suitable for Buck Rogers’s fans regardless of “their” version of the character. I am interested to see when Buck is and what the Pack is all about. For now, the Pack seems like a tribute to the highly evolved animals of Kirby’s “Kamandi”.
This series offers some promise for great summer reading. Beatty has quickly established a tone and a pace for this series, choosing to drive the series through the characters’ actions. Dynamite, unfortunately, seems to advocate the decompressed method of storytelling, which will undoubtedly confound some readers going forward. If he manages to pack this much action into each subsequent issue, Beatty will be able to distract the anxious readers from their quest to immediately know all the facts about Buck Rogers.