For a brand new book featuring a sentient plant as it’s protagonist I was bracing myself for something else, something stranger? With all the weirdness surrounding Marvel’s multiverse-smooshing Secret Wars I had half expected a book with our hero traversing the galaxy using only the limited lexicon of his three favourite words? Cosmic tourist without his phrase book? Relatable! Hey! maybe even stranger still! A completely wordless series, reliant entirely on Groot’s wonderfully wooden yet expressive facial features to tell the story, the art taking centre stage! Groot issue 1 is neither of those books. Always review the book you have, not the one you want. Besides, this first all-ages issue is still a very, very funny read. It’s thoroughly delightful, but not in ways I expected.
The premise is simple enough. Groot deciding he’s never really been to Earth, decides to do just that and ropes in his best friend Rocket as they make their way, in the great tradition of the buddy road trip. With their ship out of action, reluctant Rocket is persuaded by his perennial pal to hitchhike the whole way, relying on the kindness or lack thereof of Marvel’s cosmic residents.
While it wasn’t the style I first expected, the art from Brian Kesinger is wonderful and imbues every panel and character with the sense of flowing movement playfulness that you can only get from someone who cut their chops at the world’s most famous animation studio. If this means Marvel stealing away more people from their mouse eared overlords then I’m all for it. Groot in particular is a perfect fit. For a character who only ever utters three words, even without Rockets responses it’s perfectly clear from Kesinger’s art exactly what he means. Every joke in Jeff Loveness‘ script hits, and they hit fast as he focuses more on upping the comedy quota, playing up the perfect comedy of errors with the odd pair. The pacing is like the best kind of Saturday morning cartoon, again no surprise considering the talent involved. With our heroes finding themselves back to square one every few pages it feels like an animated show and has a sitcoms sense of rhythm with it’s humour as it jumps from joke to joke at the expense of formally intimidating Marvel villains, even allowing itself a fond pop at an old DC origin tale.
The title this will most obviously be compared to is Groot’s best pal’s solo book by Skottie Young. Even within the titles dealing with the spaces based, cosmic stable of characters, Skottie Young has been carving out his own little niche within a niche with his high energy, humour filled Rocket Raccoon solo title. Not that it’s devoid of drama or poignancy, but it’s strength lies in Young’s solid grasp of humour and action. Groot is a great companion title and while the two books are comparable to each other, it’s also to its detriment as there isn’t much to set the two apart. For all its charm and whimsy, it can’t quite seem to distinguish itself as a Groot solo title. Rocket is a show stealer, and it’s what we love about him, but it does mean that Groot feels sidelined in his own comic. With his departure from the series at the end of this issue, I’m left wondering if Groot will be forced into a more central role and what I expect many wanted from this title, a chance to see the cosmic side of the Marvel from one of its most unique and outsider characters.
From solicitations, it looks like this might be the case, with a revolving cast of guest characters for Groot to interact with and further explore his character beyond the interactions with his usual teammates. The promise of guest stars Dawn Greenwood and the Silver Surfer means that I’m locked down for three issues at the very least. This is some tough criticism for a book that I otherwise adored and made me laugh out loud on several occasions. If anything it’s a book, that despite being familiar in tone at the moment to Rocket’s solo series is still well worth picking up and a riotously funny, excellent paced and enjoyable start to a series.