A refreshingly classic science fiction comic, Shock Rockets fits the bill for a plethora of requests from comics fans requesting more diversity from U.S. comics – a multi-racial cast with an Hispanic hero, strong female characters minus the skimpy outfits, and not a superhero in sight. Happily, though this politically correct set-up does feel a bit too contrived from the outside, the story and the characters combine to make a satisfying and action-driven sci-fi tale unburdened with a specifice “message.” It remind readers of what great fun barrelling around the sky in a technologically brilliant fighter could be.
On Earth in 2071, after a massive war with an alien enemy, humans are left with only one defense, the unbeatable Shock Rockets. These agile and lethal fighters are a combination of unknown alien technology and man’s greatest engineering and are piloted by an elite team of fighters. Alejandro Cruz, working at a garbage plant alongside his whole family, dreams of becoming a pilot. He tinkers with left over bits of flyers to create a ship for himself, figuring even if there’s no chance in hell that he’ll ever make it to a Shock Rocket, at least he can create for himself a taste of the experience. Little does he know that his first wobbly (and forbidden) flight lands him smack in the middle of a fight between the Shock Rockets and an alien attack. When one of the Shock Rockets crashes in front of him, the pilot dying, he reacts on instinct and takes the helm. To everyone’s surprise, but most especially to his own astonishment, he flies expertly through the attack and wins a spot on the team. His fellow pilots are not exactly pleased to have him on board, especially as his arrival meant the death of one of their best. What none of them suspect, however, is that Cruz is the key to unleashing the Rockets as yet untapped power. Cruz is also discovering that his allies and enemies are not so easily identified and that the politics surrounding his team are far more complex than he has any hope of navigating.
Stuart Immonen’s cinematic art is the right combination of character focus and the energetic action sequences showing off the design and strategy behind the many dogfights and flights within the story. This comic should appeal to fans of such classic sci-fi as Robert Heinlein’s adventures and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game as well as anyone who’s ever quoted, “I feel the need…the need for speed!” and meant it.
Shock Rockets: We Have Ignition
By Kurt Busiek
Art by Stuart Immonen
Dark Horse, 2003