Review: Buck Rogers

My memories of Buck Rogers are of spandex white suits and disco music, courtesy of one Gil Gerard and an 80’s interpretation of the character.  But really, Buck Rogers has been around a lot longer than that.

Anthony Rogers first appeared in the pages of Amazing Stories waaaay back in 1928.  He pulled a Rip Van Winkle, passing out in a cave and waking up in the 25th century.  Gas in the cave held him in a sort of suspended animation, keeping him alive and not aging while he slept the centuries away.

Next, he was given the nickname ‘Buck’ and became the star of a daily comic strip, a radio serial and a movie serial – not necessarily in that order but work with me here.  When tv came along, so did Buck, first in the 50’s and later on in the 80’s, which is the series I grew up with.  I even had the lunch box and this iron version of Buck’s fighter complete with little orange missiles that shot out to choke little kids-er, destroy the enemy ships.

I also had a relatively fun strategy game based on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – still do (in a box somewhere).  Think ‘Axis & Allies’, ‘Risk’ or ‘Shogun’ not ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ and you’ll get the gist of the game.

I’ve been thinking for some time now that there needed to be a come back for Buck Rogers, a retelling or reboot (despite my growing distaste and displeasure for the word ‘reboot’).  I was aware of the web series in production (link?), but didn’t realize there was a comic book as well until I came across the graphic novel in a recent trip to B&N. (That’s not true. I think, now, that I remember reading something about it somewhere, sometime that I forgot about.)

Anyway, I picked it up and brought it home. Yes, yes, I paid for it first. Sheesh.  You people and your thoughts sometimes.

Buck Rogers – Volume 1: Future Shock
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment (September 7, 2010)

Buck Rogers is a test pilot, he’s also a partner in a venture to build and test spacecraft capable of traveling faster than any ships before thanks to a new gravity drive they have in development.

Set in the ‘near future’, human’s have colonized Mars and are taking their first steps into a larger universe.  Buck and his partners, aim to take Human’s even further – hence the gravity drive.

Only, trouble is a brewin’.  The military (There’s always a military – usually with multi-billion dollar grants and seemingly endless buckets of money taking advantage of the poor scientists!) are now aware of and interested in the gravity drive and the experimental ship that only Buck can fly (thanks to genetic key codes and a slew of other safeguards built into the ships flight controls which, as a plot point, is pretty convenient).

Buck doesn’t know this, he has other, bigger concerns at the moment.  Like bad navigational data and a slew of rocks right where he’d planned a test run of the gravity drive.  He could test it anyway…

The military want New Challenger, though, and they aren’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer.  So when Buck returns to earth and tries to say ‘no’ anyway, they have a counter argument ready for him:

When he wakes up again, Buck is told about a madmen who distributed a plague on Mars, a plague that caused the people there to go mad and kill each other.  Before dying himself, the madmen launched a probe into deep space carrying genetic breakdowns of hundreds if not thousands of species from Earth, including humans.

Buck isn’t happy about being forced into Military service, but he also doesn’t see a way out and grudgingly agrees that maybe, just maybe, a probe full of earth species DNA floating around in space ain’t the best idea going.  He agrees to use the gravity drive to stop the probe before it can leave the solar system, but something goes horribly wrong.

Instead of catching the probe, Buck Rogers finds himself returned to Earth hundreds of years later, crashing into a ‘Designated Game Preserve’ where humans are hunted, killed and slaughtered for meat…

…and where he meets, Wilma Deering.

I was very excited about this title.  The cover art has a retro feel to it, like the old serials – heck, even the terminology is a throwback to the days of yesteryear (like ‘atomizer’, for example).  But while the story was compelling, the back and forth way they told it wasn’t.

I gave you only part of the beginning in my little synopsis.  Actually, they bounce back and forth between past and present in a way that almost makes you seasick.  Well, makes me seasick, anyway.

One of the things I don’t necessarily care for in this re-imagining of the character is that Buck feels, at first, to be quite one dimensional.  He’s a rebel, he ‘bucks’ the system, that is the entirety of his characters motivation in all things – okay, got it.  When things get crazy and he gets shot into the future, there’s not really an ‘Oh shit!’ moment that I think any sane person would have.  I’m reminded of John Crichton on Moya here – Buck should freak out.  Granted, there’s tons of things going on, tons of dangers threatening him, but there’s also a moment when everything calms down that we don’t really see (before the next thing happens) – I think that’s when there should’ve been a freak out moment.  A big one.

“Everyone I’ve ever known is dead!”  Something like that.  I mean, COME ON!  Give him some emotion, some depth!

Other, revisted characters include: Wilma Deering, Princess Darla & Kane and Doctor Huer – all familiar and yet different in their own respects.  They don’t do or say much to give us too much insight into who and what they are.  Yet.  Again, sort of one dimensional.  Wilma’s a dedicated soldier.  Darla & Kane aren’t to be trusted.  Doctor Huer is the crazy scientist.

There’s a twist, a good one, that I won’t reveal.  Suffice it to say, it’s the past coming back to haunt the future.  It’s thought out but also pretty easy to spot once you get a little into the book.  You see some stuff and your brain goes, “Oh. That’s why this and this is happening in the future.  Got it.”

Part of me also wonders if it isn’t all just a dream that he’s having.  Could go that way, not sure if it will.  This is just volume 1 – issues 1-5/6 and there are more after this that I don’t have yet.  This is the setup for the series – if it were a tv show, I’d call it the pilot.  As pilot’s go, it’s okay, but not great.  Maybe it builds from here, the story grows richer, the characters become more dimensional and relatable.

The artwork is clean and well done.  There’s a retro feel to the future, if that makes sense.

The volume is available in hardback with gloss interiors that make the marketing guy in me smile, and it ain’t cheap – we’re talking $25 in a brick and mortar store, sans any discounts you might receive.  Looks like you can get it for $17 online.



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