Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Rocket Raccoon, Volume 1: A Chasing Tale Review (Skottie Young, Jake Parker)


Last year (2013) in the run up to the Guardians of the Galaxy movie this past summer (2014), Brian Michael Bendis was given the task of re-launching the Guardians of the Galaxy comic to prep and gee up the audience in advance. His Guardians series was fairly good (at least to start with) and did the job nicely - Guardians is now a top 10 bestselling comic for Marvel AND a major hit movie. 

To accompany the print issues, Bendis wrote a limited run of four Infinite Comics – Marvel’s digital line - with each one focusing on an individual character in the team: Drax, Gamora, Groot and Rocket (Star Lord had the first print issue all to himself). 

The Ming Doyle-drawn Rocket story ended with him realising he wasn’t the last of his kind, as he previously thought. Skottie Young picks up this strand and kicks off his Rocket (and Groot) solo (but really duo) series with the mysterious other hunting down Rocket in A Chasing Tale.

I’ve been a fan of Young’s art for a long time now but I wasn’t sure if he had the writing chops to pull off a title on his own steam. And while he’s not as great a writer as he is an artist, his Rocket series does read quite well. The first issue is a blisteringly good start, riffing on Luke’s rescue of Leia in A New Hope before switching to Groot in an alien WWE-style wrestling match, and then throwing in one action set piece after another: foot chase, gun fight, imprisonment, and multiple villains appearing.

It’s probably my fault for expecting that level of intensity for the rest of the story as things do slow down from then on and, though it’s never boring, the rest of the book never reaches those initial giddy heights. Young’s art though is sensational. From the splash page of Rocket and Groot’s escape from the prison planet, to the space battle in the seafood Cadillac, to the space fish wormhole; Young’s vision, imagination and skill in producing some truly outstanding pages is breath-taking.

Young’s ability to tell a story with just visuals is most evident in one of the two standalone issues that closes out the volume. The Groot issue is Rocket’s pal telling a troop of space scouts a fireside tale but, being Groot, he can only say three words: I. Am. Groot. So the entire issue, bar the framing, is told using those three words – even the signs in the story say I Am Groot! But Young’s layouts, along with artist Jake Parker who draws this and the other standalone issue, really sell the story so you can totally understand what’s happening from the art alone.

The final standalone issue is a pretty forgettable story of Cosmo hiring Rocket to help out some Transformers-esque robots break free or something. I suppose it has its moments - Rocket complaining about never having a sidekick with any vocabulary is a cute aside and I guess fans of the Abnett/Lanning run will enjoy seeing Cosmo and Knowhere again. 

Rocket is for the most part the brash and charming ladies’, er, “man”, the animal equivalent of Han Solo, but Young does try here and there to give him a more rounded personality. Like in the movie, an unexpectedly touching moment emerges from Rocket and we catch a glimpse of his inner self that’s at odds with his outward wild, whacky and fun character that sets the overall tone of the book. But mostly this volume is silly over-the-top action/humour! 

There are a couple of great issues here, and I love that Marvel published that cray-cray Groot story, but a lot of the book is fairly ordinary scripting – maybe trying a bit too hard to be funny in places – with consistently strong art throughout. It’s a fine, fun comic that’s definitely worth checking out for fans of the two best Guardians which, after the success of the movie, is pretty much everyone!

3.5 stars

Rocket Raccoon, Volume 1: A Chasing Tale

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