Review: Red Rocket Comet (Lab Rat Comics)

The ‘annoyingly good’ Matt Garvey returns with yet another new title this month in Red Rocket Comet the tale of an aging hero plagued by nightmares from the past. The prolific creator of white NOIR, The Ether and The Devil In Disguise has teamed up with Circusside’s Grayham Puttock and Captain Cosmic’s Andy W. Clift to create a dark and twisted superhero tale that reads like Watchmen reimagined by Mark Millar or Ed Brubaker. So buckle up for launch!

Publisher: Lab Rat Comics
Writer: Matt Garvey
Artist: Grayham Puttock, Andy W. Clift
Price: £5.00 from mattgarvey.bigcartel.comAnd that

Jerry is a retired superhero who is visited in the night by his old nemesis Lloyd (aka Dark Skull). Both are old men, down on their luck and looking for some kind of validation about their place in the world. During this night time visit they look back on a key moment in their relationship and how it has affected their life and why it has brought them to this situation.

And that’s all we can tell you about the plot, as this is one of those books which you need to go into with as little information as possible to truly get the most out of it. Garvey has created a story which ebbs and flows to perfection, revealing key moments one at a time, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat right up until the final panel. It’s a nerve-shredding read that keeps you on the edge of your seat right up until the final panel.

His writing has a real confidence to it here, with the kind of leanness and lack of extraneous info that the best Mark Millar books like Jupiters Legacy or The Magic Order have. While it also has a very Watchmen feel to it with the post modern superhero angle and use of characters looking back on faded glory days. But it manages both of these without feeling like a retread of either. It simply feels like an extension of the classic superhero genre, written by someone who knows and loves the genre, and is not trying to parody it, simply tell an interesting story within it.

Garvey’s use of two timelines to tell his story, is made even more meaningful by using different artists for each period. The present day pages feature art from Circusside’s Grayham Puttock, and his sophisticated line work and almost photo real approach makes for a very gritty and awe inspiring style. With no colour, it feels like classic DC Vertigo book like Swamp Thing and has a real Bernie Wrightson look to it, with plenty of detail and horror hiding in the shadowy blacks – especially as the story gets darker and more twisted towards the end. Puttock creates some truly incredible pages that mix horror and realism in equal measure, and this is definitely a landmark book for him that should bring a whole new audience to his work (and quite rightly too!).

This is counter balanced by some sublime retro cartoon work from Andy Clift for the flashback scenes involving Red Rocket Comet and Dark Skull back in the day. Andy continues his amazing silver age infused artwork from Captain Cosmic which looks like Darwyn Cooke meets Bruce Timm and is ideal for the old school scenes, with tons of character and energy (but also quite a few dark moments as well) and reminded us of Sean Phillips work in Last of The Innocent for the way it crosses the streams with different styles.

However this mix of styles is also one of the few negatives of the book. Although both look incredible in their own right, there is quite a sizeable shift in tone from one to the other which can feel a little bit disconcerting at times. It’s not enough to damage the story overall, because both are so strong. But perhaps having some colour in Puttock’s work or less colour in Clift’s might have helped synergise them a bit more. We were also slightly taken out of the story but Puttock making Jerry’s landlady look like Hilda Ogden, which thanks to his incredibly detailed artwork is almost picture perfect, but will probably only be an issue for those of us old enough to make the connection!

Red Rocket Comet is an immediate contender for Comic Of The Year, and should keep Garvey’s legion of fans happy as they wait for him to get on with all the other titles he has launched in the last year. As we patiently wait for one of his many other books to have a second issue he delivers one of his best titles to date thanks to a really smart concept that makes the most of some truly exceptional artwork from Puttock and Clift. Both artists create career best work, but are allowed to do this thanks to such a strong central premise to work with and are the perfect choices for each respective part of the story.

Garvey’s prolific nature and willingness to launch multiple books is paying dividends here as he builds a fantastic library of work as well as allowing him to really expand his range and improve as a writer. But more importantly the readers are also reaping the rewards as his work is getting better and better and Red Rocket Comet is a genuine five star read!