I enjoyed Superman: Secret Identity and heard great things about Shockrockets by the same creative team of Busiek and Immonen, but never had the chance to read the series until I came across the collected edition while scouring the bargain bins.

Sixty years in the future, Earth is protected by the Shockrockets—an unbeatable squadron of hi-tech aircraft, built from a fusion of alien technology and the best Earth has to offer. Manned by the world’s most elite pilots, the Shockrockets protect an unstable Earth as it rebuilds from a devastating invasion from space.

Young, tech-mad Alejandro Cruz becomes the newest Shockrockets pilot by a freak of chance.  Can he get up to speed before the Shockrockets’ greatest foe takes over the world?

The full title appears to be Shockrockets: We Have Ignition but that’s not what the indicia says so I’m going with that source. And while the last page clearly indicates there’s a second tale on the way we may not be seeing that any time soon since the last issue of this title was printed in 2000 with this collection out in 2010.

At its heart Shockrockets is a story of the everyman raising himself up to become one of his heroes, a can’t miss premise and one that’s worked over and over. Who doesn’t dream of becoming a superstar? Kurt Busiek takes this premise and delivers an engaging and captivating story about Alejandro Cruz, a young man of humble means and background who dreams of becoming an elite pilot in defense of the planet. When he happens upon a chance battle and a wounded Shockrocket pilot he takes the opportunity to prove his mettle and through alien technology mind links himself with the ship, thus becoming one of his heroes. And it’s there that the story truly begins and Cruz learns what the real cost of playing hero is.

Through the well crafted storyline and excellent dialogue Busiek treats the reader to a great read. We see how things work through Cruz’s eyes as the new recruit and his “by default” status in the team. Yet it’s also his determination, drive and grit through which the others are renewed and invigorated. Add in betrayal, mystery and heavy doses of action and we’re given something wonderful. It’s the parts of the story where the real world intervene in the world spanning action that flesh out and give depth to the story, such as Cruz’s family visiting him or one of the other pilots visiting an old friend.

Stuart Immonen presents a bold visual narrative with the help of Wade Von Grawbadger on inks and Jeromy Cox on colours. Lots of aliens and technology throughout the story provide the art team to flex their design chops with over the top ships and plenty of strong colourful panels. There’s some brief computer designed illustration for the ships but it feels more like a mild flirtation. I enjoyed the irregular panel layouts. Fight scenes have a real edge of your seat Top Gun feel. Great stuff.

For extras we’re given a few pages of roughs and character designs by Immonen and a bio page on all the creators. The last page of the series alludes to much more but Busiek was able to wrap up the local boy makes good, saves planet in this volume. Shockrockets gives a lot of story for its $24.99 USD price.