Kurt Busiek, writer; Stuart Immonen, penciler; Wade von Growbadger, inker; Richard Starkings & Jason Levine, letterers; Jeromy Cox, colors.
The story is set in the last few years of the 21st century, after Earth has fought and won a war with an alien race but at a very high social and economic cost. The ruins of Earth are contested by the legitimate government and the rebel forces of Korda, a general who won the alien war and feels like he should have been made emperor in return. The main troops in fighting Korda are the Shockrockets, an elite squadron of pilots flying six unique aircraft that are hybriids of Earth and alien technology. In the first issue, one of those pilots is killed in battle and replaced by Alejandro Cruz, a tech savy kid trying to get by in what's left of Southern California.
The story is well written, as you would expect from Busiek. The characters are interesting and three dimensional. Their interactions are believable. The world is also very well detailed and evolved, though there were a few things in it that strained my credulity. But there is plenty of aerial action and the conflicts are significant in the context of the story. The main character grows from a brash kid to a responsible and skilled combat pilot. It's a good story.
The artwork is similar to the superslick style common in superhero comics, these days, but without their skintight costumes and exaggerated physiques. The characters are all drawn in a reasonably realistic manner. The coloring is also in the modern style and is a little too obviously computer generated for my tastes. My biggest complaint about the art, though, is the ships. They are mostly chunky and unattractive. The bad guys' aircraft are sleeker and more visually appealling. But even with those caveats, the art is not bad by current standards and better than a lot of what I see on the comic shop shelves.
This is a six book limited series, so if you are interested in giving it a try you are not making an open-ended investment of time or money. I enjoyed it, and I especially enjoyed its obvious roots in Blackhawk (see below).
From an interview with Kurt Busiek:
At one point, I played around with the idea of pitching DC on a new Blackhawk series, based on my perception that the Blackhawks are pretty cool, as long as it's World War II. Because World War II airplanes are really neat. But in the modern day, airplanes are a little old fashioned. Comics and science fiction hardware has gone so far beyond even the cool jet, that the Blackhawks always seem a little old-fashioned. And if, instead of having airplanes, a new generation of Blackhawks had these cool science-fictional, anime-mangaesque aerial fighter craft, then that might touch the same chord of "Hey, that's cool," that back in the 40s the airplanes did.
One the one hand, I thought this would be kind of a neat idea, and on the other hand I never really pitched it because, I'm an old-fashioned guy, I like the Blackhawks in planes. And the Blackhawks in cool manga ships didn't quite feel right to me. So I just shelved the idea. But once Stuart and I were talking about a global defense force, of some sort of cool alien technology and human technology hybrid, I said "Hey, there was this idea I came up with a few years back, what if we do something like that?" And so, that became the Shockrockets. And certainly there are other influences there, there are similarities to the Thunderbirds there, there was a Japanese anime show that I used to watch back in the 70s called Starvengers, there was another team of crack pilots in cool ships, although if I'm remembering correctly I'm pretty sure the Starvengers, their ships linked up and became a giant robot in true Japanese cartoon tradition.
Click here for the entire interview at Comic Book Galaxy.
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