rocket groot

By far the most memorable of the characters to be unveiled at last year’s Marvel Comic-con panel were the raccoon with a gun and the giant tree creature in the Guardians of the Galaxy concept art.

Recognisable to some, Rocket Raccoon and Groot have become more familiar to Marvel fans recently with the relaunched Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova comics, but they have a long history with Marvel and this book seeks to acquaint new readers with these older comics.

The first half of the book is maybe going to be the rockiest (no pun intended, Mr Raccoon) for modern comics readers. These are comics from the 60s and 70s when the characters were first introduced, and, like a lot of comics from this era, are written in a clunky, exposition-heavy fashion laden with cheesy dialogue so that the panels are packed with poorly written captions redundantly describing the action you can already see happening. Groot is introduced as a villain in his first appearance in 1960, an extraterrestrial out to experiment on humans and he can also say more than the modern day Groot who simply utters “I am Groot” over and over (always with different meanings that Rocket can interpret).

Rocket is introduced much later, appearing in 1976 as captain of the starship Rack ’n’ Ruin whose first mate is the imaginatively named Wal Russ who is, yes, a talking walrus. The comic is off-the-wall nuts and at least visually interesting even though it looks like a super-kiddie friendly comic filled as it is with talking animals.

Rocket and Groot are best friends in the Guardians of the Galaxy but they only became part of the Guardians in Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s 2008 reboot – following this, Abnett/Lanning (collectively known as DnA) established their relationship and wrote their own separate series, which fills out the second half of this book.

Collecting Annihilators #1-4, the Guardians have split up after Star Lord’s death and Rocket has hung up his guns and found work as a mail clerk in an intergalactic office. Groot meanwhile has gone back home to Planet X. But after an attack by a killer clown, Rocket discovers that part of the clown was made of sentient wood which comes from only one place in the universe – Groot’s home planet. Rocket quits his job and heads off to find Groot and get to the bottom of the attack. But all is not well on Planet X and Rocket is about to find out his true origins when he returns to his home planet, the Halfworld.

This 4-issue miniseries is the reason to pick up this book. DnA’s Rocket is a charming, lovable, deadly, and fun character that goes some way to explaining why Marvel decided to make him a big part of next summer’s movie. The story is like Watership Down/The Animals of Farthing Wood but with spaceships, guns, missiles, guns, bombs, and guns galore – the action comes fast and thick from Rocket saving Groot from deadly robot birds to taking on an army of evil clowns in a space insane asylum. And it’s just fantastic and fun to read.

DnA also establish Rocket and Groot’s strong friendship which takes for the form of C-3PO and R2-D2′s as Groot can only say “I am Groot” but each utterance means something different and only Rocket can understand him so their conversations are entirely one-sided. Maybe a better Star Wars analogy would be Han and Chewie’s relationship but you get the idea – one side makes indecipherable noises while the other acts as interpreter. It’s cute and makes for some funny scenes.

The book closes with the collected backups from Annihilators: Earthfall #1-4 where Rocket and Groot find themselves the unwilling subjects of an intergalactic reality TV show run by the grotesque Mojo. This is only a 20 page story but it’s still lots of fun and a sly dig at Marvel’s merchandising arm.

rocket fight

If you’re interested in the Guardians of the Galaxy then this is a must-read, especially if you think Rocket and Groot will somehow bring the movie down by being too silly – this book establishes them as credible, exciting and individual characters in their own right. Even though I wasn’t crazy about the 60s and 70s material, it’s there to provide context for the characters and there are plenty of comics readers out there who enjoy the hammy Silver Age stories anyway. Rocket Raccoon and Groot: The Complete Collection is flarking good space action Marvel weirdness and fun.

Collecting: Tales to Astonish (1960) 13 (Groot story), Incredible Hulk (1968) 271, Rocket Raccoon 1-4, Marvel Preview 7, Annihilators 1-4, Annihilators: Earthfall 1-4, Rocket Raccoon and Groot: The Complete Collection is out now in paperback at your local comics shop

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This article was first posted on May 4, 2013