Welcome to the Comic Archive! There have been so many amazing stories, characters, and series produced from comic book publishers for almost 100 years now; this column will serve to celebrate some of the tales you may or may not know about. Each week, we’ll take a story arc or trade paperback/collected story from a non-new comic (three years old or further back), and discuss the details with you.
It sounds strange, doesn’t it? A character who can only say three words – the same three words, nonetheless – featuring as the leading character of a six-issue comic book mini-series? This mini-series is Groot, the solo-adventure spin-off for the character who may just be the most beloved member of the Guardians of the Galaxy team after his emotional stints in the various Marvel Cinematic Universe films. I briefly thought about writing the entire review by simply repeating “I am Groot” about 400 times, but then I figured that I’d really be the only one as entertained by that as I’d think it should be, so I decided against it. Instead, here’s a real review for you!
Drawing on the success of the preceding Rocket Raccoon solo series, the gun-toting extra-terrestrial “trash panda” stars alongside everyone’s favorite talking tree in some (but not all) of this series – which is not only a good thing but an obvious-necessity thing, since Rocket serves as Groot’s de facto translator, being the only one in the universe who can understand him and all. As it has been for quite some time, the pairing of these two characters works extremely well as they attempt to hitchhike their way through outer space to Earth. Why are they headed to Earth? Much to Rocket’s chagrin, it’s just because Groot wants to; at least, that’s the explanation given early on in the series.
This series is spent entirely in space, as a few roadblocks and detours inevitably pop up to get in Groot’s way. Whether it’s space sharks running amok (and inevitably getting beaten up by Groot and Rocket) or an appearance by The Skrulls (the Washington Generals of the cosmos), there’s plenty for our main character to “I am Groot” about. And “I am Groot” he does, to surprising effect; while Rocket features just as heavily in some issues as Groot does, it becomes clear very early on that the spotlight of the series rests squarely on our Ent-like friend’s branch-y shoulders. In fact – staying as spoiler-free here as possible – it’s safe to say that Rocket won’t be side-by-side with Groot the entire way, so how Groot communicates with other characters is an intriguing proposition indeed.
The artwork and writing of this series are both phenomenal. Brian Kesinger handles the artistic side of the pages, and while he is a newcomer to the comic-book side, his background as an animator/illustrator with Walt Disney Studios is readily apparent. He does an exemplary job of giving legitimate life to an almost-mute character, with Groot’s emotions and mannerisms easily shining through on the page. Writing duties are being handled by Jeff Loveness, his first ongoing Marvel project, although you may recognize his “other” project, a long-time writer for the late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! Loveness does a great job of handling the give-and-take between the multiple “I am Groots” and how Rocket answers/responds in such a way that gives the audience all the info they need without pandering too much.
Featuring guest-star appearances from several other Marvel Cosmic stalwarts, including the Silver Surfer, the series has enough twists and turns to keep most readers well entertained. While Groot doesn’t necessarily reinvent the comic-book world or set the stage for a mind-blowing epic in future series, it’s a highly-entertaining run that features what’s possibly the character with the most heart in the entire Marvel universe. Tight writing and whimsical art help this series stand out as a stellar entry into Marvel’s line. One does get a sense early on that so much didn’t happen in the first few issues because it’s coming soon – and that sense would be correct, as this series does an excellent job of world-building issue by issue. I almost equate it to that feeling of “the calm before the storm.” It definitely permeates the series with a sense of anticipation – of not wanting to wait to read the next issues and find out what happens. It’s a great feeling for a comic-book series.
Got a comic, character, or story arc that you’d like to see covered by the Comic Archive? Feel free to list it in the Comments below or send your recommendation directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – see you in the funny papers!