The first issue of Dynamite Entertainment's Buck Rogers promises a potentially bright future ahead... as long as we can all get past the difficult launch. Spoilers (and deadly bears) ahead!
In many ways, Buck feels like a mixture of the ill-fated 2007 Flash Gordon SciFi Channel series and Geoff Johns' Green Lantern reboot for DC Comics - and not just because it's about halfway less successful than GL and more successful than Flash. Like Flash, it tries its best to update the classic concept as quickly as possible in order to get to the action that everyone's expecting but, in doing so, reduces almost every character involved to cyphers that it's hard to sympathize with, in situations that aren't entirely clear and feel more like the result of a writer trying to make everything seem exciting and eventful from the word go than anything convincing or organic. Not the best start to a story, really.
And yet, there's something about Scott Beatty's Anthony "Buck" Rogers - the nickname comes from his bucking authority, we're told - that appeals, despite the flatness that surrounds him in the 21st century; he's written, pretty much, as the same anti-authority hero (and, to an extent, macho jerk) that has been a science fiction staple since Harrison Ford first talked about how fast his starship was, and making him a pilot brings to mind Johns' Hal Jordan very quickly. It's not a bad idea, and helps the contemporary scenes pass relatively painlessly. Even if he isn't any more fleshed out than anyone else around him, he still seems more... exciting, perhaps? more interesting, at least, and someone we're willing to follow around for awhile.
The story really becomes interesting as Buck ends up in the future, but again, that's not because of the characterization. No, this time it's the laser-toting cyborg bears that make things ridiculous enough to be entertaining, and mysterious enough to keep reading. Although we don't learn why they have lasers or who or what made them cyborgs by the end of the issue - although we do learn that they can talk, of course - the very fact of their existence suggests enough of a sense of humor that's been lacking in the rest of the issue that bodes well for future stories.
Deciding to stay on with Buck as he discovers more of the 26th century is, at this point, as much an act of faith as anything else; faith in writer Scott Beatty and artist Carlos Rafael, but also in publisher Dynamite Entertainment. And it's that last one that is the most powerful, perhaps - Dynamite have managed to successfully breathe new life into The Lone Ranger and Zorro, so why not Buck? He may seem quaint and old-fashioned in this day and age, but that's not necessarily a drawback: he's always been a man out of time, after all.
Buck Rogers #1 is available now.