Taylor: When I was a kid I watched a lot of cartoons. Almost anything that was animated on TV I would be drawn to. So much was my love for the animated form that I would wake up at 6:00 AM every day just so I could get in a good viewing before going to school. While there’s probably a lot of reasons I love(d) cartoons so much, watching the original Looney Tunes shorts certainly played a foundational role. There’s so much to love in these shorts, but perhaps more than anything the thing that most appeals to me is just how zany they are. Rocket Racoon & Groot 5 takes its cues from these animated shorts, but it turns out that when you measure yourself against greatness, you’re likely to come up short.
Groot and Rocket are on vacation in their spaceship when a group of space vikings hops on board and takes them prisoner. They take our heroes back to their planet where Groot is mistaken for a god, which turns out to be a ploy by the viking leader to cement his hold on the throne. Thanks to some explosive dialogue and weaponry, Groot and Rocket are able to escape the viking settlement and in doing so also depose its crooked king.
From the instant I opened the pages of this comic I couldn’t help but see it as a reinvention of a Looney Tunes cartoon. This has less to do with the story itself and more to do with the artwork of Jay Fosgitt. In his characteristic style, Fosgitt draws all of his characters with bug-eyes, small torsos, and oversized limbs, the cumulative effect of which is to create people and creatures who look like they stepped out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. This immediately prepares me for some wacky adventures because I can’t help but compare these characters to those Looney Tunes who pioneered and crafted the modern idea of what a cartoon should look like.
Overall it’s a style that has its appeal but at times I felt it was in conflict with some of the more mature content in the story. When Rocket heroically saves Groot from the Viking leader he throws a bomb into a volcano and has some parting words for his enemy.
As pictured here, Groot and Rocket are incredibly cute, as their oversized features render them rather innocent looking. This is in direct contrast with Rocket’s words telling the viking leader that he’s fucked. On the one hand, this strikes me as discordant in tone. How can a comic be both innocent and vile at the same time? A part of me wants to keep those two things separate, but maybe the point here is that you can’t always do that. By juxtaposing cute artwork with adult language I can see how this panel is quite funny. No one expects the cute furry animal to curse and that situational irony can be a source of great humor. It really comes down to the reader whether this contrast is to your liking or not. For my money I can’t really decide.
I mentioned that Fosgitt’s artwork prepared me for zaniness, but ultimately I’m not sure if it prepared me enough for some of the plot developments in the story. After they are thrown in jail Gunhild tells Rocket of Groot’s fate. Instead of becoming a living god, his fate is much darker.
Gunheld somehow knows every part of the viking king’s plan but how she has this information is a mystery. Has the king claimed to have discovered a deity before only to kill it so he can solidify his rule? If so, why would his subjects fall for the same trick twice? The plan is just a little too convoluted to believe that Gunhild has somehow guessed it with 100% accuracy. If writer Skottie Young had answered these questions the issue would be the better for it. Just one panel where Rocket asks the same questions as I do and Gunhild tells him this has happened before would suffice. In fact, that might be a little funny because it would undercut my own incredulous response. As it is, the plot is zany but perhaps not as twisted and wild as I would have hoped it to be.
This isn’t to say that I’m totally down on this issue. Generally the artwork is wonderful and I find most of the characters adorable. Likewise, the premise alone of Rocket and Groot getting into trouble is funny in and of itself and Groot being mistaken for a god is both plausible (whatever that means) and fun. However, I would like things here to either skew more loony or a bit more sensical.
Ryan, what do you think, do you see those same references to Looney Toons that I do? Is their a particular character design you find to more adorable than the others? And do you think Rocket would be the best or worst person to go on vacation with? I think it’s either of the two and nowhere in between.
Ryan M: Rocket would be a good buddy for a Vegas weekend, with his aggressive approach to life and leave no man behind attitude. If we’re talking beach getaway, not so much. I don’t need anyone to give me shit about my trashy beach reads. The other drawback for me is that I don’t regenerate like Groot. Rocket has chosen his life-mate wisely. Groot can withstand all of Rocket’s antics and grow back whatever he loses in Rocket’s latest assault.
Taylor, I think your Looney Tunes connection is apt for this issue. In addition to the cartoonish style you mentioned, a few of the other elements of those classic cartoons are evident here. Rocket fulfills the Bugs Bunny role. He is a reactive participant in this adventure. He offers dry commentary and quips, but really it’s the desires of the antagonists that drive the action. Young and Fosgitt also gives some Looney-ness to Gunhild.
In the panel above, Gunhild hits that double-punch of a pun and meta commentary in a single line. It is a fun move to be so clear that the box is just a Macguffin and won’t be central to the unfolding plot. Gunhild’s dismissive attitude about the box and its contents gives the reader an excuse to forget about the box and look away. It makes it all the more satisfying when we find that the box is where Rocket keeps his Nukotronizer.
The structure of the episode also has that old-school cartoon style. The issue functions as a self-continued episode with no continuity to maintain. The plot capitalizes on the affection and knowledge we bring to the characters but could also function as a first issue for a new reader. There are references, both in world (Captain America sand bucket) and real world (Doc Hollywood).
I think I caught most of the references here, but the Doc Hollywood one really threw me. I mean, I’ve seen the movie a handful of times and remember the basic plot, but I have no idea how a Blue Viking with a monster sword relates to the story of Michael J. Fox being sentenced to work in a small town after he crashes his car on the way to California. This kind of reference is a bit of a gamble for Young. The people who are “in on it” get the pleasure of inclusivity as well as the merit of whatever the joke is. For people on the outside, it can be alienating. This is another place where the Looney Tunes comparison leaves Rocket Raccoon & Groot lacking. A significant portion of the Looney Tunes references pre-date me by decades, but the jokes were character based or at least silly enough that you didn’t need to know the reference to enjoy the humor.
Taylor, you also asked about the relative adorableness of these character designs and it’s a tough contest. I do have a soft spot for Groot, though, and my affection was bolstered by Fosgitt’s style.
With his bottomless black eyes and lantern jaw, Fosgitt makes Groot cute even as he’s attended to by bored slave girls. The girl filing his finger has the perfect level of side-eye and attention to detail, while the poor girl who got armpit duty is drawn with apathy mixed in with her FML posture. I hope these women find fulfilling work in the post-King world.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?