Thursday, May 31, 2007

In Praise of: Rocketo by Frank Espinosa

I have to admit, I have been fully sucked into the mind of Frank Espinosa. His Rocketo charms, cajoles, tugs, pushes and pulls you into a wholly fascinating world: a world of far future, with different races, different continents, different lingo and a different back story that I’m sure reads better in the trade than in stand-alone issues.

I slowly became aware of Rocketo the way that one hears about a great band still doing the club circuit: a word here, a small review there, a graphic purloined here… the same way that I found myself at an Earl Greyhound show months ago. I finally stumbled onto the first Rocketo trade at a convention and snapped it up. (I had yet to run into any of the single issues whatsoever, so I'm not aware of how the format is effecting the artwork in the least, but it makes me wonder a little bit why I've never seen any of the singles.)

Espinosa takes us so deep into his own mythology thats its a wonder we ever climb out at all. Journey to the Hidden Sea is the title of the first collection, and what a journey it is. Where as there are many Tolkien scholars that will tell you Lord of the Rings is really about language, I would venture to say that Rocketo, the story, is really about Rocketo, the man, and the voyage of discovery, in just about every meaningful way, micro and macro.

I wouldn't wonder that Espinosa knows Darwyn Cooke, since both are certainly comfortable with the bold, thick line style that takes us, as comic historians, all the way back to Scorchy Smith. Perhaps it is Espinosa's use of color that separates him from the pack, as well his apparent desire to reduce entire panels to only the relevant shadows (perhaps his only storytelling flaw in the first collection). The book, as these two pieces illustrate, have a bravura quality with the color that is fascinating to watch, and when the group finally hits the Hidden Sea, extremely effective in conveying just what a bizarre world we're journeying into.

If there is subtext, we might be reminded of those "that would rip the heart out of mystery, hold it up to the light for all to see." If there is anything that is happening here, it is the desire for a complete immersion into an unfamiliar world, something that reignites our child-like sense of wonder, before we saw other survivors of Kryton, before we knew where the Joker came from, before we saw what other Time Lords looked like, in short, before we had all our questions answered. Here, we have almost none answered, and thats the very best part.

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