While visiting my local comic shop this week I happened to notice a new first issue sitting on the top shelf, right in my eye’s sight: a new series of Buck Rogers. Now, for those who are in the same age range as myself, many of us are quite familiar with the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series that starred Gil Gerard and Erin Gray. That was everything a TV series of the late 1970s and early 1980s would be, especially after the commercial success of Star Wars: lasers, robots, and a little cheese thrown in as well as it was a TV series (and by Glen A. Larson of Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, The Fall Guy, and Automan fame, if anyone else but me remembers that last show). I was going to pass the book by but then I noticed the name “Howard Chaykin” on the cover and so I decided to give it a chance.
I had fun reading this book. Why? Because from what I can tell, never having read the original stories that it is based upon, this is not a re-imagining of the fun, cheesy TV series but instead a fun look back at what the original intent of the characters were intended to be. The story jumps right into the action – we don’t get the origin of Robert “Buck” Rogers right off the hop; no, instead we get him flying into action like the soldier that he was originally written as. Alongside Colonel Wilma Deering, who is every bit of a soldier as Buck if not more as she is in her own time and place. From what I remember of the TV series she was written as tough but intended to be sexy; in this iteration she is tough, sexy, and then tougher. She is in command and she won’t take any crap from Buck… Well, she does, but only because the impression is that she needs him.
We do get to experience Buck’s perception of how he managed to get to the 25th Century which is different than most “hero” origins. Usually we get a narrative view from someone, showing what happened. Here, we do get narration, but it shows us where Buck came from – his past, his military and union involvements in the early 20th Century, and where he landed as a result of an altercation with someone. Down in a mine shaft, he succumbs to the effects of a gas which puts him under and lets him “Rip Van Winkle” for 500 years. The reader is treated to a little bit of “future history” as well, at least as to how Buck sees it. He didn’t live through it but he did learn about it after being rescued by Col. Deering, which included concepts and scientific advances that are completely foreign to him, such as “nuclear attacks”.
Howard Chaykin has brought Buck to life in this book being the sole individual responsible for the story, art and letters, but with the assistance of Jesus Aburto on colors. This is most definitely a gorgeous book to look at and I really enjoyed reading it. This is (to my knowledge) my first exposure to Chaykin as a writer but I am quite familiar with his work as an artist and that’s why I picked it up. What I really enjoyed with this book is that it is – first and foremost – an action story with a man who is lost but working to adapt. He talks to people – in this case Dr. Huer – about the situation and his background. Along with the story, Chaykin’s artwork is spot on. Now, I know some individuals for whom they don’t like Chaykin’s style, but I must say that it all depends on the book. This is one book where it’s great. Now, it’s not perfect, I am sorry to say; there area few panels where Buck’s chest looks like it’s 5 times the size of his waist, but for the most part it’s done well and Chaykin and Aburto do a fantastic job on the scenery everywhere I look, regardless of whether it’s in 1917 or 500 years later.
What I really appreciated about this title, as I said above, is that it was an action story. It’s not going for the cheesiness that was in the TV series – in other words, no Twiki (who was voiced by Mel Blanc of Bugs Bunny fame). And I liked that. I have really appreciated what Dynamite has been doing in keeping true to many of the “classic” stories that they are bringing to life, such as their John Carter of Mars series, and even though it is a modification of the stories they are keeping the spirit alive. And that’s what I felt Chaykin, Aburto, and Hermes Press did here. I am definitely going to give #2 a shot and if it keeps up to this same level of quality I have a feeling I will be back for more.